mjj (flemmings) wrote,
mjj
flemmings

Odd that I have no autumn icons

The nuns taught me to memorize poetry, which is why I was able to reconstruct this almost from memory.
Thirteen's no age at all. Thirteen is nothing.
It is not wit, or powder on the face,
Or Wednesday matinees, or misses' clothing,
Or intellect, or grace...

Thirteen keeps diaries, and tropical fish
(A month, at most); scorns jumpropes in the spring;
Could not, would fortune grant it, name its wish;
Wants nothing, everything;

Has secrets from itself, friends it despises;
Admits none to the terrors that it feels;
Owns half a hundred masks but no disguises;
And walks upon its heels.

Thirteen's anomalous— not that, not this:
Not folded bud, or wave that laps a shore,
Or moth proverbial from the chrysalis.
Is the one age defeats the metaphor.

Is not a town, like childhood, strongly walled
But easily surrounded; is no city.
Nor, quitted once, can it be quite recalled—
Not even with pity.
--Phyllis McGinley
That was mid-20th century; thirteen's not like that now, but was very much like that for me then. I was reminded of the odd alienness of being thirteen this afternoon, because I remembered another poem, one that doesn't rhyme so emphatically and that isn't anywhere online. I copied it into a Hilroy notebook when I was thirteen:
For Ontario

Although I'll never see the purple smoke
Of prairie crocuses without sharp pain
Sudden and sweet: Although I'll never hear
A prairie meadow-lark without a stop
In my quick pulse, an intaking of breath
Till the wild notes are fallen on the air;
Although a kind of day, a certain wind
Will touch me with old wonder, old delight--

Still there is something in these trees, these hills,
This orderly succession of straight roads
And fields; a sober-mantled loveliness
That quickens with content the turn of years;
So if I close my eyes, there is no choice-
This land grows like a garden in my heart.
--Dorothy Livesay
Which is very autumn and what Toronto is being now. But in fact the poem connects, in my transparent memory, to a pale chill overcast and misty morning in what could as well have been a Toronto January or March and not October at all.
Tags: place, verse
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