While strolling through a well-known store, just minding my own business, pretending to be a serious shopper intent on throwing a lot of money around ... I encountered Gloria, a friend I hadn't seen in ages.
We were delighted to see each other again.
We used to be in a writing group together. I always enjoyed her writings ... mostly snippets of autobiography ... and she had kind things to say about my poetry.
We had barely exchanged greetings ... including a warm hug ... when she asked: "Are you still collecting pencils?"
She remembered! Mainly she remembered how, at one of our meetings, I brought in a handful of pencil stubs ... little discarded things that I had found on the sidewalk, in the gutter, etc., during my daily walks.
My idea was to pass them around to members of the writing group, with the suggestion that they write something with them. I thought it would be interesting to see what the pencils would "tell us."
I offered them first to Gloria ... who recoiled as though I had just tried to hand her a snake.
"Why, we don't know where those have been!" she exclaimed.
Yes, I admitted, I'm still collecting pencils ... though there seemed to be fewer of them lying about at the beginning of this school year ... symbolizing another shift in technology, I suppose.
Well, that exchange brought to mind the poem I'm offering today, a poem from my collection entitled Wood Smoke, published by Finishing Line Press.
I think "I Could Not Pass It By" pretty well tells its own story, but, as is the case with all poems, the reader brings a certain experience, a certain viewpoint to the reading of it. That always gives it a special flavor, often beyond what I had expected it to impart.
I COULD NOT PASS IT BY
I found it lying there
in the snows of Watervliet Avenue,
as cold and senseless as my own
toes pointing the way for me
up the sidewalk curving toward
the Belmont Business District.I found it freshly pointed,
eraser in nearly-new condition,
reclining so yellow beside
the curb that I could not
pass it by. With a practiced swoop
I possessed it and walked on,swiping it across a gloved hand,
then offering it body warmth
in a pocket snug within the down
of my dark brown corduroy-collared
jacket. I felt it shedding
its coldness against my chestas I wondered where it had been,
what magic it had revealed
to some young pupil watching
as it sent caravans of letters
tracking across the desert page
in some remote, arid classroom.But now I watch while it marshals
the words that go streaming across
a page I’ve offered to it, and we
pause, listening for late-night
stirrings near the top step of my
mind, a young poem, awake, thirsting.
(part of my third collection, Wood Smoke, published by Finishing Line Press)
Today's word: thirsting