armistice_day: (winter's tale . it is a gallant child)
I spent a lot of time alone as a child. Most of that time, when I wasn't riding my bike, I was reading. Or performing interpretive dance to ABBA records, but I won't be covering those flights of fancy in this post.

I read a lot. An awful lot. The Great American Novels of the time, courtesy of the Book Club return cards my mother never returned in time, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Fantasy and Science Fiction received as gifts from Uncles and Aunts, my mother's mysteries, historical fiction and classics, and my own slowly growing collection of odds and ends. One feature of which were my books of poetry. Anthologies, collections, and the like. Big, thick books, crammed with poems. Some of the poems were sad, some were strange, some were boring, some were sappy, some were dirty, and some were beautiful. These are still my main categories for sorting poems, and I find they work quite well. Though I am much easier on the sappy poems now than I was then.

I had a lot of odd hobbies. Lots of only children do. We're inventive about finding ways to use time. One of my hobbies consisted in banging out the poems I really loved on my mother's old portable typewriter. Once typed, I kept them in a folder in my Trapper-Keeper, for easy access. Who could say when I might like to read that poem again? It could happen at any time.

Once, I left a poem, only partly typed, in the typewriter. The paper was onionskin. The verse was one from a poem called "The World" by Henry Vaughn, the very first verse. I didn't much care for the other verses. Though full of incredible images, they were of a moralizing tone that I disliked. But the first-- I didn't have to type it out, I already knew it by heart, I just wanted to. I wanted to not only see the words, say the words, but feel them, too.

When my mother came to collect the typewriter from my room (she typed my father's seminary papers on the same machine), she found the poem and showed it to my father. I hated to disappoint them, but when they asked me if I had written it, I had to say I hadn't. I also probably went on enthusiastically about the verse itself for a bit.

For a long time, I wanted to be a poet. Sometimes I am one, in the usual way. But more usually I am one in my own way. The images I read and the images I see are one and the same in my mind. They become each other forever, a great loop. A great ring.

When I look up to the tangible stars or when I feel the intangible rush and roar of time, I hear Vaughn's words. They are always with me, an image in my mind. Slanted sunlight on translucent paper, the book open at my elbow, the heavy clack of the keys, itchy carpet under my belly, a waving curtain, the sound of a train in the distance.


I saw Eternity the other night,
like a great ring of pure and endless light,
all calm, as it was bright;
and round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years
driven by the spheres
like a vast shadow moved; in which the World
and all her train were hurled.

--The World, Henry Vaughn


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April 2012

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