Note from Joe: Only a great writer can write “free verse” well, and Ray Bradbury is a great writer. Read this slowly and let its story unfold naturally. I promise you it’ll blow your mind. At a book signing, I was honored to get The Author’s Signature on my copy of this poem.
And this is where we went, I thought,
Now here, now there, upon the grass
Some forty years ago.
I had returned and walked along the streets
And saw the house where I was born
And grown and had my endless days.
The days being short now, simply I had come
To gaze and look and stare upon
The thought of that once endless maze of afternoons.
But most of all I wished to find the places where I ran
As dogs do run before or after boys,
The paths put down by Indians or brothers wise and swift
Pretending at a tribe.
I came to the ravine.
I half slid down the path
A man with graying hair but seeming supple thoughts
And saw the place was empty.
Fools! I thought. O, boys of this new year,
Why don’t you know the Abyss waits you here?
Ravines are special fine and lovely green
And secretive and wandering with apes and thugs
And bandit bees that steal from flowers to give to trees.
Caves echo here and creeks for wading after loot:
A water-strider, crayfish, precious stone
Or long-lost rubber boot --
It is a natural treasure-house, so why the silent place?
What’s happened to our boys that they no longer race
And stand them still to contemplate Christ’s handiwork:
His clear blood bled in syrups from the lovely wounded trees?
Why only bees and blackbird winds and bending grass?
No matter. Walk. Walk, look, and sweet recall.
I came upon an oak where once when I was twelve
I had climbed up and screamed for Skip to get me down.
It was a thousand miles to earth. I shut my eyes and yelled.
My brother, richly compelled to mirth, gave shouts of laughter
And scaled up to rescue me.
"What were you doing there?" he said.
I did not tell. Rather drop me dead.
But I was there to place a note within a squirrel nest
On which I’d written some old secret thing now long forgot.
Now in the green ravine of middle years I stood
Beneath that tree. Why, why, I thought, my God,
It’s not so high. Why did I shriek?
It can’t be more than fifteen feet above. I’ll climb it handily.
And squatted like an aging ape alone and thanking God
That no one saw this ancient man at antics
Clutched grotesquely to the bole.
But then, ah God, what awe.
The squirrel’s hole and long-lost nest were there.
I lay upon the limb a long while, thinking.
I drank in all the leaves and clouds and weathers
Going by as mindless
As the days.
What, what, what if? I thought. But no. Some forty years beyond!
The note I’d put? It’s surely stolen off by now.
A boy or screech-owl’s pilfered, read, and tattered it.
It’s scattered to the lake like pollen, chestnut leaf
Or smoke of dandelion that breaks along the wind of time...
I put my hand into the nest. I dug my fingers deep.
Nothing. And still more nothing. Yet digging further
I brought forth:
Like mothwings neatly powdered on themselves, and folded close
It had survived. No rains had touched, no sunlight bleached
Its stuff. It lay upon my palm. I knew its look:
Ruled paper from an old Sioux Indian Head scribble writing book.
What, what, oh, what had I put there in words
So many years ago?
I opened it. For now I had to know.
I opened it, and wept. I clung then to the tree
And let the tears flow out and down my chin.
Dear boy, strange child, who must have known the years
And reckoned time and smelled sweet death from flowers
In the far churchyard.
It was a message to the future, to myself.
Knowing one day I must arrive, come, seek, return.
From the young one to the old. From the me that was small
And fresh to the me that was large and no longer new.
What did it say that made me weep?
I remember you.
I remember you.