The Power of a Poem

I was 14 or 15 at the time. It was a very long time ago. I had a crush on a certain young girl. On one occasion I spent an entire evening composing a poem that I felt would perfectly express my love for her. With dictionary in hand I took my ordinary words and looked up synonyms that sounded more intelligent and worked and played with rhymes until I got it just right. I toiled for hours. It was, I thought, a masterpiece.

I could see her reading this poem and falling deeply in love with its intelligent and sensitive young author. I could see her falling asleep at night clutching this poem in one hand and my school picture in the other, holding them close to her soft white breast where soon my head would also rest, if all works out as I had planned.

So, it was at this very early age that I instinctively understood the power of poetry. It was at this very early age that I so bitterly learned about humiliation and rejection.

I slid the poem in an envelope and shoved it into the louver at the top of her locker. The very second I did this I realized immediately that I had made a grave mistake. I broke out into a sweat and panic seized my gut. The locker was, of course, locked and there was no way now that the poem could be retrieved. I had no backup plan. I slumped to the floor knowing that by the end of the day I would not be able to show my face in these halls again.

I saw it all unfold before my mindâs eye. She would come to the locker surrounded, as always, by her friends. All chatty and catty and silly they were. She would open the locker and out would tumble my letter. She would open it up and read it aloud while more and more would come to join in the laughter. All were laughing with mockery at this childish sloppy sentimental tripe that I had so carefully penned in my best hand and signed with my own name.

Where is the nearest bridge from which I can throw myself? They will be sorry when their parents take them to my funeral and they know that I died of a broken heart. As she looks at my dead body for the last time will she, I thought, will she then love me? Will she cry? Will her heart break knowing that I may have been her only chance for true love?

Yes, the power of poetry, it is a life and death matter when love is at stake and when you are 15 years of age and your hormones are raging within you like a young bull.

So how does it change as one ages? I obviously did not throw myself off the bridge. She went her way and I went mine. But now, at 60 years plus, how has it changed?

All that is left of the bull are his ears hanging as a souvenir. The white hot love that was characteristic of my youth has cooled, for sure. But love is still there in deep layers of memory that flood in and warm the bones. Oxidation is taking place but it is less like fire and more like decay. In the end the results are the same, some burn, some rot.

At 60 years I shall not die from having my poems mocked. Humiliation and rejection do not concern me. You do not kill an old bull with such a sword. Old, he is only suitable for glue, and in time, he falls of his own accord.

What motivates me now to write? It is more elusive, more important, and more fundamental. It is more spiritual in nature. It is not, however, old.

At 60 I have not made death the cornerstone of my thoughts. It is there but it has no sting. I have already buried so many family and friends. I have already said good bye. Death is the long sleep that awaits us all. And though I am closer to the end than the beginning, if I am struck down in the next day, I have lived and loved and grown old, a far better outcome than befalls many that die young.

My thoughts now are with the inner truth of things. My thoughts are beyond the daily drama that is the news of this day. It is beyond the cycle of life and death. It is beyond that act of creating or being created, beyond destroying and being destroyed, beyond the atom and beyond the stars, beyond time, beyond self, beyond the beyond. It rests in the nameless, in the void, in the timeless.

With this said, nothing is excluded. Out of this nameless, timeless void the angst of a teenager is as important or unimportant as the coming and goings of great men or great events set upon a world stage. It is all just stuff, grist for the mill, like the dark matter that clouds at the edges of the visible universe, the primordial soup that is the birth place of stars.

I have come here to speak of it all.

© Martin Hunter - 2005

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