Thursday, May 1, 2008

Maybe just one more...

Growing up as an only child, I quickly discovered a world that spoke only faintly of reality, where I could go when long hours of loneliness threatened to creep upon me.

To avoid boredom, the enemy of every childhood, I played odd, exciting, creative games with elaborate stories and intense climaxes. Sometimes I'd pretend I piloted futuristic spacecraft through high-speed-and-higher-tension race courses filled with tricky elevation changes and underhanded competitors. Other times, I'd simply create stories like those I watched on TV. Ace pilots performing impossible maneuvers to outfox pursuing enemies and escape to safety, just in time. Occasionally my heroes, for all their tricks, were vanquished unjustly. I remember once spending what seemed like hours discovering the personal reactions of each character to the untimely death of their beloved friend, Hero.

Whatever happened, a particular pleasure filled my imagination adventures. The pleasure of excitement, like the feeling of playing with new toys on Christmas day. Unlimited possibility flashed like lightning, lightning that I became. Dancing, crash! Boom! I leapt like like between ideas and I felt the energy unleashed when the climax arrived. Lightning strikes the Earth, burns a scar into the immortal Earth.

The pleasure became part of me, a companion who spoke joy to my heart. I developed a feeling like passion, a deep affection for the characters I played with everyday. My adventures burst with excitement, freedom, and a wild rush. They left a story on my bones. A story I read and relive now and again.

Imagination means children discovering a rushing fire within themselves.

"The Centaur"

The summer that I was ten-
Can it be there was only one
summer that I was ten? It must

have been a long one then-
each day I'd go out to choose
a fresh horse from my stable

which was a willow grove
down by the old canal.
I'd go on my two bare feet.

But when, with my brother's jack-knife,
I had cut me a long limber horse
with a good thick knob for a head,

and peeled him slick and clean
except a few leaves for the tail,
and cinched my brother's belt

around his head for a rein,
I'd straddle and canter him fast
up the grass bank to the path,

trot along in the lovely dust
that talcumed over his hoofs,
hiding my toes, and turning

his feet to swift half-moons.
The willow knob with the strap
jouncing between my thighs

was the pommel and yet the poll
of my nickering pony's head.
My head and my neck were mine,

yet they were shaped like a horse.
My hair flopped to the side
like the mane of a horse in the wind.

My forelock swung in my eyes,
my neck arched and I snorted.
I shied and skittered and reared,

stopped and raised my knees,
pawed at the ground and quivered.
My teeth bared as we wheeled

and swished through the dust again.
I was the horse and the rider,
and the leather I slapped to his rump

spanked my own behind.
Doubled, my two hoofs beat
a gallop along the bank,

the wind twanged in my mane,
my mouth squared to the bit.
And yet I sat on my steed

quiet, negligent riding,
my toes standing in the stirrups,
my thighs hugging his ribs.

At a walk we drew up to the porch.
I tethered him to a paling.
Dismounting, I smoothed my skirt

and entered the dusky hall.
My feet on the clean linoleum
left ghostly toes in the hall.

Where have you been? said my mother.
Been riding, I said from the sink,
and filled me a glass of water.

What's that in your pocket? she said.
Just my knife. It weighted my pocket
and stretched my dress awry.

Go tie back your hair, said my mother,
and Why is your mouth all green?
Rob Roy, he pulled some clover
as we crossed the field, I told her.

-May Swenson

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