Once again, I find myself with some time on my hands here at work. I actually have a cache of blog topics to choose from, for just such an occasion.

When I was a young church-going lass, there was a boy who was several years older than me. The oldest of the Headrick kids — I forget his name. Mom would know, since I think she taught him in Sunday School. At any rate, he was a “normal” kid: kind of soft-spoken, as I recall, and particularly tall. He had one thing besides his height that set him apart, though, and that was his predilection for bow ties. Mormon men and boys, as a general rule, wear standard neckties to church, so his bow ties made him stand out.

When he turned 18, he was called to be a missionary, as all good Mormon boys should be. He was sent out to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) in Utah… and the next time we saw him, he was wearing a normal necktie. Apparently, missionaries are required to wear neckties, and his cache of bowties were forbidden during his mission. I don’t know whether he ever wore his bow ties again, after he returned from his mission two years later.

I always thought that was just a little tragic. I understand the need for uniformity, but I’ve always wondered if the MTC managed to completely eradicate that one facet of Elder Headrick’s uniqueness.

I can’t believe I’ve never posted this poem before. I searched my site for it, though, and apparently I never have. My mother taught me this poem when I was little, and I’ve seen slight variations of the poem and its backstory in the years since. I believe Mom found it in a newspaper article and copied it down back in the mid to late 70s. This is how I remember it (with some help from the internet):

This poem was given to an English teacher by a 16-year-old student. It is not known whether he wrote the poem. It is known that he committed suicide two weeks later.

He always wanted to explain things.
But no one cared.
So he drew.
Sometimes he would draw and it wasn’t anything.
He wanted to carve it in stone
Or write it in the sky.
He would lie out on the grass
And look up at the sky
And it would be only him and the sky
And the things inside him that needed saying.
It was after that
He drew the picture.
It was a beautiful picture.
He kept it under his pillow
And would let no one see it.
And he would look at it every night
And think about it.
And when it was dark
And his eyes were closed
He could still see it.
And it was all of him,
And he loved it.
When he started school he brought it with him —
Not to show anyone, but just to have it with him
Like a friend.

It was funny about school:
He sat in a square brown desk
Like all the other square brown desks
And he thought it should be red.
And his room was a square brown room
Like all the other rooms
And it was tight and close
And stiff.
He hated to hold the pencil and chalk
With his arms stiff and his feet flat on the floor
With the teacher watching
And watching.
The teacher came and smiled at him.
She told him to wear a tie
Like all the other boys.
He said he didn’t like them.
And she said it didn’t matter!
After that they drew.
And he drew all yellow
And it was the way he felt about morning
And it was beautiful.
The teacher came and smiled at him.
“What’s this?” she said.
“Why don’t you draw something like Ken’s drawing?”
“Isn’t that beautiful?”

After that his mother bought him a tie
And he always drew airplanes and rocket ships
Like everyone else
And he threw the old picture away.
And when he lay out alone and looked out at the sky
It was big and blue and all of everything.
But he wasn’t anymore.
He was square inside and brown.
And his hands were stiff
And he was like everyone else.
And the things inside him that needed saying
Didn’t need it anymore.
It had stopped pushing.
It was crushed.
Like everything else.

6 thoughts on Conformity

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  1. Brian?

    Funny, as soon as I started reading, I thought of the same poem:-)
    I got the poem from Girls Conferance when I was sixteen or seventeen. So It’s a REAL old poem. LOL

  2. Naw… I didn’t really know him that well, so I thought it would be kind of weird just to e-mail him and say, “Hey, I went to church with you about 15 years ago!”