Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Promise of Stars...

A promise of stars ... gold, blue, red.
That's why I stood at the front of the room
facing my fourth grade classmates
pulling words from my memory
conjuring the images
the rhythms, the rhymes to help
reconstruct the poems. 

Recite a poem, get a star.
A fair trade, I thought, for a long line of red, blue and gold beside my name on the chart beside the door...

I discovered the words 
laced into poems in an old book 
with yellowed pages and crackled binding,
napping on a shelf in our home.
Within lay the key to star treasure.

But of course, the true treasure emerged in words, images, poems
that seeped into me, 
shaped me.
Treasure that still lies within my memory.

April is National Poetry Month - in honor of it, I held this photo session with my all-time favorite poetry book, aptly titled "Favorite Poems Old and New", selected by Helen Ferris and published in 1957.

Penciled on the flyleaf in my fourth grade handwriting are a few of my favorites for easy reference...

  • Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe, page 503, creepy and romantic. It was many and many a year ago...
  • Land of Counterpane by Robert Louis Stevenson, page 48, imaginative and innocent. (I've always had eclectic taste.)
  • One, Two, Three by Henry Cuyler Bunner, page 537, tender and bittersweet, but joyful. It was an old, old, old, old lady, and a boy that was half-past three...
  • Just 'Fore Christmas by Eugene Field, page 538. Father calls me William, sister calls me Will...
  • Leetla Georgio Washeenton by Thomas Augustine Daly, page 419 The Italian accent I developed with this one landed me the role of the Italian watermelon vendor in our class play! "You busta my-a watermelon! You imbecile! You lonkahead!" Those were my lines. Yeah, I still remember them, along with every line of my favorite poem from that year, which is...
  • Little Boy Blue by Eugene Field, page 536, so sweet and so sad. My sister and I love to recite this (and cry) together. The little toy dog is covered with dust...

That's not the complete poem. Here's the rest...

Aye, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place---
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.

Excuse me while I get a tissue...


  1. A trip down memory lane...I love all of those poems. I'm not sure you remember, but I have the original book (Aunt Peggy gave it to me) with the faded blue cover. I found yours in a garage sale and got it for you so we would each have a copy.

  2. I love that you did a photo shoot with a favorite old book of poetry. And how wonderful that you were inspired to learn those poems.

  3. Brenda, I knew we had two copies, but didn't know the story behind them. Thank you for getting me my own! (smart, since I marked all over it!)You're such a wonderful big sister! I do remember that we can recite Little Boy Blue together!
    Maureen, I'm so grateful that I was bribed to learn them - I'm definitely a gold star kind of person, I guess. Kind of sad, but the truth! :)

  4. Great presentation of those old books! I can almost smell them. How sweet that you and your sister each have a copy. Enjoy your day, Barbara!

  5. Oh, gorgeous words and books! I do adore old books....

    One of my favourite poems is by W.B. Yeats: Wishes for the cloths of heaven.

  6. aww..what a treasure of a book! did you read these poems to your children when they were young?


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