Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Found Poem: When I Was Twenty-three

—for Elisabeth, whose words I found to be wise beyond age 

Back then, I felt nothing 
Like what the doctor had ordered. 


How perception can change 
Over time, and not so bad 

My younger self, I think now, 
But as I say that’s not how 

I thought then—ugly 
I thought then, sad 

To remember that 
Perception now but better 

Than nothing feeling nothing again. 


  1. And she thinks she can't write poetry.

  2. Vassilis, perhaps it's superstition that impels the reminder that these things may swing through cycles; nothing can always feel nothing again.

    Whether feeling something is always better than feeling nothing is another matter... if not quite immaterial, but still.

    And then there's the possibly related matter of whether better might itself be a relative absolute.

    But to paraphrase the poet, this is no universe for old pseudo-logicians.

    In any case, this is one of those poems that asks to be read over again... and again.

    (Once knew a poet who insisted that a poem could not be any good if one "got it" before at least five readings. That was taken, by me, anyway, back then, as an expression of a form of poetic snobbery. But a tricky little number like this one makes me wonder... all over again.)

  3. (We also once thought that the "I" in a poem was meant to designate the person who wrote it; we were so much younger then, we're older than that now. "Unlyt," scolds the nosy word-verifier, from its convenient sixth-sense perch.)

  4. Oh my goodness, so late on Sunday evening, nearly midnight ,and I must be up at 6 am to take my youngest daughter to her friend's house for breakfast for the last day of her school life. And in the evening a valedictory dinner. My daughter is only seventeen going on eighteen and I must get to bed in readiness for a full day ahead.

    And then I find my words captured in a poem here, just as I was about to turn off my computer for the day. Words I spun off as thoughts that hit me when I recognised your compliment, Vassilis, to my twenty three year old self, and my older self, not yet sixty but crawling close thought about what it was like back then, back when I was twenty three and thought myself to be ugly and ungainly.

    And when I look again at this old photograph I have to think yet again. I was not so ugly after all. Why could I not know that then?

    Thank you, Vassilis. I'm flattered all over again, but not for the image. This time I'm flattered for the words.

  5. Jim,

    In Elisabeth's case,"the proof of the pudding is in the eating"--what more proof does she need?


    Thanks for your detailed thinking on this one--makes one wonder, doesn't it? Who wrote
    this poem? It wasn't me--all I did was to take Elisabeth's words and rearrange them and then
    add the final line but it isn't Elisabeth's either. And what was it that drew me to these lines so strongly that I had to tinker with them? Your guess is as good as mine. All I can say is I'm grateful Elisabeth wrote them down so that I could "appropriate" them.

    Thanks to all of you--especially to the beautiful creature who thought she was an ugly duckling.


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