Unlocking the Heart and Soul of Remarkable Leadership, Keith Merron
Remarkable Leadership

The Poet’s Corner – Dinky – by Robert McDowell

The fanciful poem that follows, written by that great poet of Michigan and the Northwest, Theodore Roethke, has always worked in me like a rollicking nursery rhyme or fairy tale.

Who or what is Dinky? Troublemaker? Goblin? Sprite? Dinky is the surprise, the “Uh oh, one more thing” that confronts you when you think you’ve just gotten out of a sticky situation. He’s like the little people of Irish folklore.

Dinky is also the belly laugh, the occasion to let your hair down, an invitation to give in to the invitation, ‘Don’t take life so seriously’. Have a listen.

by Theodore Roethke

O What’s the weather in a Beard?
It’s windy there, and rather weird,
And when you think the sky has cleared

–Why, there is Dirty Dinky.

Suppose you walk out in a Storm,
With nothing on to keep you warm,
And then step barefoot on a Worm

–Of course, it’s Dirty Dinky.

As I was crossing a hot hot Plain,
I saw a sight that caused me pain,
You asked me before, I’ll tell you again:

-It looked like Dirty Dinky.

Last night you lay a-sleeping?
No! The room was thirty-five below;
The sheets and blankets turned to snow.

–He’d got in: Dirty Dinky.

You’d better watch the things you do.
You’d better watch the things you do.
You’re part of him; he’s part of you

–You may be Dirty Dinky.

Each stanza of this poem begins with a question, supposition, or declarative contradiction.

Each of these is followed by two lines in which the natural world jumps up to inconvenience you, and these are followed by one line that announces Dinky at the bottom of it all.

The poem closes with a quatrain, four lines that thunder admonition:

This is a warning not to be too comfortable, too full of yourself as you run along through your life. Of course, it’s all tongue in cheek. The poet means for this to be good fun, and it is. Perhaps Dinky is a stand-in for your irascible aunt or uncle, your ill-mannered sister, brother, or cousin, or that classmate who was always playing pranks on you.

Great leaders are able to be with Dinky, without getting too bent out of shape. Life always throws us a curveball. How we catch it makes all the difference.