Thursday, March 4, 2021

Alphabetical Candies and Missed Opportunities

Candy is childhood, the best and bright moments you wish could have lasted forever.
~Dylan Lauren

Hi folks! Happy Poetry Friday! The poem below talks about "imagining a kingdom" when you're ten. At about that age, I drew extensive diagrams of an imaginary house with rooms for everything a kid could want. So I am right there with Amy Newman in the opening stanza (and later I can feel the ketchup hit my new shirt, although that never happened to me).

An Incomplete Encyclopedia
of Happiness
and Unhappiness

by Amy Newman

An incomplete encyclopedia of happiness
would have an entry on you
and a map of the walk you took when you were ten,
jingling your allowance and imagining a kingdom.
It would have a list of places to go for ice cream
and a compendium of the naturally sweet fruits,
their hues of flesh arranged on a color chart,
and types of candies in alphabetical order...


The companion volume on unhappiness
starts earlier than it should, and contains
statistics on loss in blurry, mite-sized type.
There’s an article on that time the popular girl
squirted ketchup on your new shirt, the one
your mother worked six extra days to pay for,
near the category on Children in War Zones,
just to emphasize the shame of selfishness...


The editor is up nights, compiling and revising
everything ever done or made
or imagined or hoped for,
everything bright and glazed
or dulled by use, or rubbed away
or fought for, or thrown or thrown at
or razed or constructed
or conceived of, or created, or traveled...

...everything believed and debunked, or believed and lost,
everything learned and everything forgotten,
including the incomplete encyclopedia,

including the editor’s research, his days compiling,...

...his love of cards, his fear of swans,
his father’s regret and his mother’s voice, singing,
all this unhappiness, all this happiness.

read the complete Incomplete poem here (you have to make an account for Narrative; it's free)


Kathryn Apel has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Kat!


Linda Mitchell said...

So, this poem has me thinking of me at ten. And, I can't stop. The candy gum (which was never that good) and life savers and neco wafters and tootsie rolls. I may not stop thinking about this poem for a very long time.

KatApel - said...

I'm stuck on the ketchup stain on the shirt mum worked six extra days to pay for. Kids can be so cruel. I'm glad I don't own that memory. But I do remember walking from my grandparents to the garage. And how rich I felt with 20c in my hand. And how many lollies you could buy for 20c! And pointing each one out, one by one, to go into the crisp, white bag.

Bridget Magee said...

10 y/o was a particularly rough age for me - I won't go into detail, but suffice to say candy helped ease the pain. Incidentally, candy still plays a part in my life...peanut m&m's much? Thanks for sharing this poem, Tabatha. :)

Irene Latham said...

Dear Tabatha, this reminds me of a Patricia Lockwood poem. Curious about your research! xo

Linda B said...

I did sign up for the Narrative, Tabatha, looks like a special site. Reading that poem full of the many sides of life makes it an encyclopedia for all of us, fill in the blanks she omitted for us! After re-reading, I still love best the stanza that begins "The editor is up nights, compiling and revising", take that as our own constant reflections, whew, lots to ponder. Thanks. I am grateful you so often share "new" things & ideas.

Ruth said...

My brothers and I each had a country we'd invented. We used to draw maps and pictures and create stories...

Janice Scully said...

The poem made me think about my childhood and the things that delighted me and about my siblings, "everything bright and glazed/or dulled by use, or rubbed away . . . " So much to think about. Thanks for introducing me to Amy Newman's work.

Mary Lee said...

At about 10 (maybe a little older), I dreamed I'd be an architect. I filled sketch pads with house plans and dreams of other lives.

Kay said...

What a wonderful poem--I love the idea of an incomplete encyclopedia of our lives. And age 10 is not one I want to repeat as I spent most of the year being sick, but I am enjoying hanging out with my 10-year-old friend.

michelle kogan said...

I like the stanza with all the gluing and ripening, planted, and on, and on… 10 was kind of a tough year… art stands true though, thanks!

Karen Edmisten said...

When I was ten, I was certain that marrying David Cassidy would bring me happiness, if only he could meet me and see that I was far more serious and cerebral than most ten-year-old girls. I think I wrote him a letter telling him as much, although I don't know why I thought David Cassidy would be interested in serious, cerebral people.
Thanks for this wonderful poem and for directing me to Narrative!

Susan Bruck said...

What a wonderful premise for a poem--an incomplete encyclopedia of happiness and unhappiness--I think I still imagined living in the woods when I was 10--with animals who I could talk to.
I was especially fascinated by the verses about the editor who compiles these encyclopedias and who is afraid of swans.
Thanks for sharing this!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Hi, Tabatha, and thanks for the dose of Pure Prairie League this morning. I hope you have had a lovely birthday, and perhaps we could go for a walk sometime soon--I'm fully vaccinated by Saturday! I can't explain why I love both the poems with a laser-focus on one tiny detail AND the poems that attempt to catalogue exactly everything in several stanzas--but I do. And this one is grand. I also have just had a wild ride through the skinny on Narrative Magazine, which I researched a little now that I am trying to submit work weekly. It's a thicket!
In other news: how are the children?