Friday, February 02, 2007

My First Poet

When I was seven, my interest in reading migrated from the bookshelves in my room to the bookshelves in our hallway, where my mom and dad kept their books, mostly antiques handed down from generation to generation, books about land surveys and war correspondences. My dad read nothing but the daily newspaper, Sunset Magazine, Time and Playboy. My mom liked John Jakes or John Jakes rip-off novels. However, she did have a small cache of literary books in the hall bookshelves, including a first edition of Robert Frost's IN THE CLEARING, and a smallish anthology of Modern Poetry.

The anthology measured 4"x 6"x3", perfect proportions for my child-hands. I appropriated the book and read it everywhere, at the dinner table, at the bathroom counter, in my bed, on the floor in the living room near the fireplace, outside on the lawn, in the white oak tree, in the station wagon on the freeway. After about a week, my mom noticed that I was attached to the book, so she read me her favorite poem from it: e.e. cummings' "Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town."

I'm still not sure if e.e. cummings became my first favorite poet because my mom loved him or because I loved him in my own right. When I was in graduate school, nobody ever talked about e.e. cummings, as if he were some sort of eccentric carny who happened to have published a boatload of wacky poems. I kept him close to my chest, rarely mentioning him in the company of other students, guarding him in my heart's shrine. After graduate school, I read him again every day. When I lived on Pinedale, I taped one of his poems to my bathroom cabinet, the one I looked at whenever I sat down to use the toilet. Everyday I read his poem like a prayer. Everyday I blessed him for blessing me.


i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

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