Writer and poet Brian Doyle bids farewell to that ancient, wondrous, terrifying staple of any playground, the teeter-totter.

(Editor’s note: we Australians may better know it as the see-saw!)

Poem for the Shaggy Ancient Splintery Moist Totally Dangerous Cedar Teeter-Totters That Were Removed Finally from the Playground


Image credit: OpenClipart-Vectors

Where my kids played on them not only every summer but every single
Blessed time we were down at the coast, which was a lot, and every one
Of those times I stood there barking silly dad things like be careful! and
Watch out! and that’s too far! and other stupid things like that, as if they
Were listening, which they were not. Oh God, those teeter-totters barely
Were fastened with a rusty bolt in the middle at all, and those thousands
Of times kids had jumped on and crashed and slammed and rattled them
All were patent in their creaking screeching about-to-be-disastrous vibe,
And every time my kids leapt up on them I saw emergency rooms again,
And I hated those teeter-totters because I knew someone would go down
Too fast and shatter three bones, but I loved them too, because you never
Saw kids have such fun as my kids did sending one kid flying off the end
As the other two lost it giggling, and jumping from one to another as they
Were moving fast and their dad had heart palpitations, and all manners of
Other things that surely are absolutely forbidden by every imaginable law,
And rightly and sensibly so. Still – where they were they were not, and we
Stood there for a moment staring at the not. There was a lot of not. We do
Remember everything, and we’ll always have the teeter-totters, or at least
This poem to remember them by, so that when my kids are my age they’ll
Read this and smile and think of those immense and hugely heavy timbers,
But weirdly what I think I will always remember now is the way we stood,
For a long moment, staring at the lot of not. That was a really holy minute.
Then they sprinted off to play basketball, and I found a seat in the sun, and
The world wandered on without the teeter-totters, but gently with them too.

Brian Doyle

Poet and writer Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine, has contributed to Platform and Eureka Street, and is the author of many fiction and non-fiction works, including Thirsty for the Joy.