When I was studying literature in college, the classes that challenged me the most were the poetry classes. As a child, poetry was my closest friend. Every afternoon after school, you could find me on the little windowseat at my house on the corner of a small city street reading poems out of a Best of Anthology.
The book sits on my desk to this very day. But, these are few "literature" quality poems. These are simple, inspirational, emotional, funny poems. Ok, Elizabeth Barrett Browning is represented for SONNET FROM THE PORTUGUESE: "First time he kissed me, he but only kiss'd the fingers of this hand wherewith I write; And ever since, it grew more clean and white."
And, Lord Byron is there with, "She walks in beauty like the night, Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that's best of dark and bright, Meets in her aspect and her eyes."
And, there are other 'famous' names you would recognize; Rudyard Kipling and Longfellow and my favorite the world over, Edgar Allan Poe. But, the vast majority of poems are from little known poets. People like you and me. Men and women who took pen to paper (in those long ago days of 'writing'), and poured out their souls in line after line, stanza after stanza, creating a world of simple expressions. A world that promoted the golden rule, or that offered encouragement. A world full of stories in sonnet format, that revealed heartfelt wishes and the misery of war and death. A world that existed in that book, and on that windowseat, whispering about lives gone over the rainbow, leaving behind a shimmering veil that beckoned the brave to step beyond it.
There was no question, in my mind, that it was there and beyond it, hid a virtual world of music, and laughter, and amazing women and men dancing as if no one was looking. I felt their voices around me in the silence of that small space. I felt their presences, beyond the subtle sound of the wind shaking the trees outside my window. I felt their world floating just out of reach, where the stories of those poems would linger on my neck and hover about my ears, filling me with desire - to be a character in one of them.
Today, I know that that book, that world, the voices beyond that mysterious veil, had more to do with shaping the inner me than anything else I experienced in those long years of my childhood.
Every story became my story, and whenever I read it - moving my lips ever so lightly, I could feel each disappointment, and each loving kiss, in my heart.
I read "Jenny Kissed Me...by Leigh Hunt
Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I'm growing old, but add --- Jenny kissed me!"
And I pretended I was Jenny. And that whomever it was that was so enthralled by this one kiss, was enthralled with me - a skinny girl reading by streetlamp. Of course, when I closed the book, the spell was broken. I went back to being "just me."
Just me went to school and ate lunch with friends, and walked home to an empty house, mostly. Just me did some chores and watched over the sister and brother - not by choice, mind you. Just me might do homework, and might not, because just me was eager to get back to reading.
And so, here I am...just me. Not so skinny now. Not so naive. Just me working to make sense of how to capture the wonder of making friends online. Just me open to friendship and the marvel of knowing so many fantastic women (and men) building relationships across time and space, separated only by thin veils of silence.
Just me, still reading. Doing a bit of writing. Asking you to reach out to me and others like me, to women who think of themselves as "just me," a girl on a windowseat with a book on her lap.
Here is the poem that represents the just me that continues to read her badly battered poem book, with its tattered pages and missing index pages, because it represents truth in life: that human beings need to bond with other human beings, and that will never change:
FRIENDSHIP by Dinah Maria Mulock Crain
Oh, the comfort -- the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words -- but pouring them all right out --
Just as they are --
Chaff and grain together --
Certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them --
Keep what is worth keeping--
And with the breadth of kindness
Blow the rest away.
Just me and just you can be the change that makes the world a kinder, gentler place. Can't we?