Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Places I've Known and People I've Been" - R. Williams (1981 thru 2013)

This tattered little 5” x 7” book was purchased in La Jolla, California in December of 1981. It even says so on the inside cover. I was visiting a cousin in San Diego and we drove to La Jolla for no particular reason that I can recall.  But, sometime that day we went into this little shop- I still remember it being on the side of the road and across the street from a cliff.

A new blank book is something which knows no limits. The empty pages represent all possibilities. From poetry to an epic novel; nothing seems like an unreasonable expectation at the time. Conversely, it also represents a defining moment; as in “what am I actually going to put on these pages?” Well, after 34 years; and with only 6 blank pages left; I can finally tell you. 

The book opens up to the end page which states where I bought it, when and who I was with. Then the facing page has a couple of rubber stamps on it- a camel and a quarter moon. The moon is smiling; the camel is not. Both of these stamps also appear in my old expired passport. At the time I stamped it the passport was valid. I never had any problems about it except in Egypt.

Next is the title page, which gives you 2 choices; apparently I was torn between them. The first one is simply “Poems I’ve Heard” with an asterisk leading to a note explaining that I have always heard poetry inside of me. Getting it down on paper quickly, before it’s gone, is the trick. It also explains that there are many more poems than appear in this little book. These are just the ones which I chose to keep.

Apparently I began to fill this book almost immediately; the first entry was made in Baltimore. It’s from 2nd grade and called “Autumn”. It’s very short-

“One day a leaf went down a hill,
And it was very still.
The leaf was colorful,
and life was so wonderful.”

It’s dated October 1962 and I can’t help but wonder about the little boy who wrote of life being wonderful in the past tense. Attached on the back of the page is a very similar poem written by my daughter when she was in 2nd grade.

There are several poems from my teens. One is called “Odyssey” and has lines about the “cold vacuum of space” and “the monotony of stars.” It’s dated March 1970.

“Cold October Parks” was written to my Mom about the futility of trying to understand one another. It was written in Sheepshead Bay and dated October 1972.

I’m sitting- in the cold
October Park-
Just sitting- writing a poem
About how beautiful
Everything can be.
Isn’t it a joke-
(you) telling me.

I’m sitting- in the cold
December dark-
Just sitting-writing a poem
About how ugly
Everything can be.
Isn’t this a joke-
(me) telling you.

There are poems written at sea, at home, in the car, just about everywhere. There are even scraps of paper in there with the original scrawled verses on bags that once held fried chicken.

There are a couple of rhymes which I have pasted in the book. Things which I ran across and wanted to keep. The first is about a frog-

“What a wonderful bird the frog  are!
When he stand he sit almost.
When he hop he fly almost. He ain’t got no sense hardly.
He ain’t got no tail hardly either.
And when he sit, he sit upon what
He ain’t got almost.”

And there is also a copy of “When Did You Leave Heaven” as well as “I Had a Little Tea Party”.

“I had a little tea party
This afternoon at three.
3 guests in all
‘twas very small.
Just I, myself and me.
Myself ate up yhe sandwiches,
While I drank up the tea.
And it was I who ate the pie
And passed the cake to me!”

It’s a cool little book; very dear to me; since it has a lot of me in it.
Someday I hope that my grandkids will look at it and get to know me better. That’s not why I bought it - but that’s what it turned out to be.

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