In a quiet part of town where the houses stand close
and evening stretches long the shade of the garden hose
and the baby falls asleep clutching her teddy bear’s toes . . .
it’s time to read my son The Lorax.
We’ve read this book for almost a month to the day
and our ritual always begins the same way,
snuggling on top of my bed,
he tilts up his tow head
and asks, “Why the Lorax is lifted away?”
We pretend not to know why the Lorax will leave
and we crack the book and start the nightly read.
That first time, I wondered,
“Will he understand?”
Can he know why we must give Truffulas a hand?
I wasn’t quite sure where his intuition would land.
But boy! Oh, boy!
How he loved the first smacker!
His eyes went wide when we spied the Super Axe Hacker.
He gleefully counted the trees on each page,
watching the Onceler quickly clearcut the stage,
leaving me quite shocked at his industrialist rage.
The next day I began his reeducation.
We went into the yard and took up a station,
learning the importance of all of creation.
“Do you think,” I drilled,
“trees want to be Thneeds?”
“No,” he parroted. “Trees help us breathe.
“They give homes to the birds and squirrels and bees.”
So back to The Lorax we went after dinner,
(my hopes for his morality considerably thinner)
but I found that my lessons indeed struck a bell.
“Poor trees,” he sighed,
as one by one they fell
and when the Lorax left, the tears even started to well.
What a marvel it was to see this drastic change;
this single book created such emotional range.
How does The Lorax set such sympathies loose
when the hero has–come on–all the charm of a moose?
It is, quite simply,
the mastery of Dr. Seuss.
He chooses the Truffula residents with care,
whether humming fishes or ridiculously playful bears.
The colors are crisp. The world is bright
and somehow there isn’t a predator in sight
until the Onceler–or at least his disembodied arms–alight.
Then the mise-en-scène bleeds into purples and browns.
The belching factory begins to dominate the town
and all the animals faces fade into frowns.
It’s an overt approach even a toddler can sense,
at least, once all his blood-lust is dispensed.
There are still parts I don’t like for a boy in his threes
we skip the Onceler’s line, “Shut up, if you please.”
And last week when I chased him
while the bathwater ran,
he protested, “No, you dirty old Onceler man!”
prompting more revisions and narrative bans
Of course, I see the book with a writer’s skew,
noting the strategy of the villain’s point of view,
but a curious villain
because he sees the light
and inhabits the mess, where most messmakers take flight,
if indeed they’ve even witnessed their terrible blight.
Why did the Onceler decide to stop biggering?
Wasn’t there a new “Truffula” to axe while sniggering?
A new product, a new market,
today’s entrepreneurs know
when you go flat broke
you simply find a new show,
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.
The mystery of the Onceler’s remorse aside,
I’m underwhelmed by his decision to fret and hide,
and even the Lorax, for all his blustery shouts,
makes no effort to restore the world he touts;
he just shepherds his creatures toward other routes.
Yes, I understand Dr. Seuss’s grand plan
to show every child with a Truffula seed,
They are the change agents, the world’s future holders,
but what awful weight
for such tiny shoulders.
This ending has all the joy of Sisyphus’s boulders,
which is why when we come to the story’s end
and with tearful eyes, my son asks me again,
“but why the Lorax is lifted away?”
I hug him close, and lie as I say,
“He went back to his mommy, and she’s so happy he’ll stay.”