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Poetry in the Fog


Posted: April 13, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 13, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Poetry stands as an essence of youth, an integral part of a mind unfettered by the mental calluses called experience.

I don't think I know of anyone who hasn't tried poetry as a kid. I know of no adults who still write poetry. I think most wish they did, and count the loss as a measure of their advancing years.

Poetry is something special; kids are special and thus they belong to one another.

I can't remember if I was in junior high or in the early years of high school when disease ravished our chicken business and Dave, needing an outlet, got a paper route. He delivered a local throw-away called The Herald American.

I was livid with jealousy so I got a route too. As it turned out, the job was a pain in the ass simply because I was allergic to early morning.

The job lasted only a few months until I gave up on dark mornings and trying to collect "voluntary" fees for a rag nobody wanted - a rather unique feature of the Herald American.

In the middle of the night while I slumbered, a truck - it must have been a truck although I never saw it - would dump a huge bundle of newspapers between the two palm trees that stood like sentinels in our front yard.

At four in the morning or so, I would stagger out into the damp darkness to fold each paper, wrap them with rubber bands and stuff them into a grubby canvas bag. How I hated it!

It was cold only the way California can be; while the thermometer might register temperate temperatures, the dank sea air would drive itself through jackets and flannel shirts as if they were gossamer.

But something happened in those gray foggy mornings when the mist hung in the air and cradled the early hours in its quiet fold.

The street light across the road by my friend Screwdie's formed a gentle halo that bathed the palms in a soft glow and made the dew-laden grass glisten.

It was always quiet, quiet like a cat's breathing. Perhaps a distant truck would purr briefly, but never loud enough to intrude.

While I squatted on the grass, the palms, halo and paper bundle seemed to recede from reality as kid-imagination burst forth, hurling sparkling visions against the gloom.

Detached hands slapped each newspaper into quarters and whipped resentful rubber bands around the fold’s girth, but the boy took no notice. The hands turned black from raw printer's ink as they jammed paper after paper into the canvas, but the boy's mind sailed through the drifting fog into the ether beyond.

Love, nobility and song peeked between the thrashing pages and heroes dashed about their business. Somehow, a clean bit of paper appeared and the stained fingers produced a stubby pencil and the boy forgot about the Herald American.

He wrote poetry, noble poetry. Words spewed from the tooth-pocked pencil like a torrent. The boy sat cross-legged on the grass with his nose close to the paper so he could see in the gloom.

Dew crept through his pants making his legs and butt shiver with the chill, but the poetry flowed uninterrupted.

Fog collected on the leaves, ran in little slow motion rivulets to the tips of the leaves and then spattered to earth. Slinking through time, dawn turned the grayness to milk. The streetlight's halo faded and slipped into the realm of history. A bird, bolder than most, chirped his greeting to the pending dawn.

The boy jolted. Late! The paper and pencil were stuffed into a pocket and the blackened hands - my hands - thrust the last of the folded papers into the canvas sack.

I heaved and struggled with the bag to sling it across the handlebars of my bike. Lurching on the pedals, I wobbled down the potted road while the newspapers tried furiously to jam the spokes of the front wheel.

A distant truck whined in the thinning fog and the poetry grinned in my pocket.

Now, looking though my papers, I find some poetry, mostly of a later era, my college phase. Some had its roots, I'm sure, in those morning fogs. But sadly, disastrously, no sheets of poetry are smudged by printer's ink.


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