I dwell in Possibility – A fairer House than Prose – More numerous of Windows – Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars – Impregnable of eye – And for an everlasting Roof The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest – For Occupation – This – The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise – ~Emily Dickinson
The possibilities contained within a Dickinson poem are doors and windows standing wide open for interpretation and comprehension. When I visit Emily’s dwelling full of mysterious capitalizations, inscrutable dashes and sideways rhymes, I am blind, get easily lost, stumbling over this and that, and end up wondering where she is leading me and how far I’m willing to go.
Yet she tells me – This – to get my attention, hold it fast, to look up and out, beyond, and into forever.
-This- is what I must do when I read her carefully chosen words and dashes -This- is what I ask of a reader who opens my email or comes to my daily post -This- is us dwelling in possibility for a moment or an eternity, all eyes and windows and doors wide open to grasp a glimpse of Paradise.
-This- is our hands spread, ready to gather, to hold, to embrace, to pray, to fold to prepare us for Whatever Comes Next…
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Because my parents had denied me comic books as sordid and salacious, I would sneak a look at those of friends, the bold and bright slick covers, pages rough as news and inked in pinks and greens and blues as cowboys shouted in balloons and Indian yells were printed on the clouds. I borrowed books and hid them in the crib and under shoes and under bed. The glories of those hyperbolic zaps and screams were my illuminated texts, the chapbook prophets of forbidden and secret art, the narratives of quest and conquest in the West, of Superman and Lash Larue. The print and pictures cruder than the catalog were sweeter than the cake at Bible School. I crouched in almost dark and swilled the words that soared in their balloons and bulbs of grainy breath into my pulse, into the stratosphere of my imagination, reaching Mach and orbit speed, escape velocity just at the edge of Sputnik’s age, in stained glass windows of the page. ~Robert Morgan “Funny Books” from The Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems
I learned to read at age four by spending hours poring over the stained glass panels of innumerable 10 cent comic books. One was sent weekly to us kids by our grandfather who only saw us twice a year so we took turns reading that comic over and over until we had the pictures and the content of the dialogue balloons completely memorized before the next one arrived.
My personal favorites were Superman and Archie and Little Lulu but I didn’t discriminate – I’d read anything with colorful pictures and thought bubbles, which probably explains my persisting penchant for Life magazines and National Geographics.
It also explains this blog being 2/3 photos and 1/3 text. I need pictures to get me through most reading material. Medical school was a breeze thanks to so many pictures in the text books. A good thing I’m not an attorney – no pictures in those texts.
I eventually graduated in my cynical pre-teen years to Mad Magazine and (when my parents weren’t paying attention — Cracked) and finally gave up comics altogether by high school.
So whatever happened to a collection of 762 comic books that had accumulated over years of Grandpa’s mailings, as well as my own purchases, spending my hard-earned allowance on comics throughout the 60’s?
As an industrious (and bored) nine year old in the summer of 1964, I decided to open a neighborhood comic book library for kids who wanted to borrow them so I catalogued each and every one on notebook paper and then created a card system taped into each one inside, just like at the real library. If a local kid borrowed a comic, I kept the card showing the date it was borrowed and when it was “due” back and who the borrower was. I don’t remember having many library visitors, as we lived in a rural part of the community, but I did have few friends who would take home several comics (a limit of 3!) and return them the following week.
Eventually the comics were put to rest in a trunk that was stored in our barn and forgotten until my mother had to sell the farm and get everything moved out after my parents’ divorce. My brother and I both thought the other sibling had managed to grab the comic collection but when we talked about it years later, realized that neither of us had possession of them. This became a bit of an issue when we realized that well-cared-for vintage comic books were selling for significant prices in today’s market and we estimated that our collection may have been worth a few thousand dollars.
But oh well.
I hope they ended up in someone’s worthy hands, complete with their kid-made library cards taped to the inside and very well-thumbed pages.
The irony is that to this day, I can’t look at stained glass windows in church without wondering about the silent thought balloons rising above the heads of the people around me. I suspect they would make a great story.
The night of the Perseid shower, thick fog descended but I would not be denied. I had put the children to bed, knelt with them, and later in the quiet kitchen as tall red candles burned on the table between us, I’d listened to my wife’s sweet imprecations, her entreaties to see a physician. But at the peak hour— after she had gone to bed, and neighboring houses stood solemn and dark— I felt no human obligation and went without hope into the yard. In the white mist beneath the soaked and dripping trees, I lifted my eyes into a blind nothingness of sky and shivered in a white robe. I couldn’t see the outline of the neighbor’s willows, much less the host of streaking meteorites no bigger than grains of sand blazing across the sky. I questioned the mind, my troubled thinking, and chided myself to go in, but looking up, I thought of the earth on which I stood, my own scanty plot of ground, and as the lights passed unseen I imagined glory beyond all measure. Then I turned to the lights in the windows— the children’s nightlights, and my wife’s reading lamp, still burning.
~Richard Jones “The Manifestation”
….it’s the last three lines I read over and over, the reminder of the mundane wonder that burns every night, at least until it’s extinguished.
~Tania Runyan, commenting on “The Manifestation”
“Usually, after turning out that forgotten barn light, I sit on the edge of the tractor bucket for a few minutes and let my eyes adjust to the night outside. City people always notice the darkness here, but it’s never very dark if you wait till your eyes owl out a little….I’m always glad to have to walk down to the barn in the night, and I always forget that it makes me glad. I heave on my coat, stomp into my barn boots and trudge down toward the barn light, muttering at myself. But then I sit in the dark, and I remember this gladness, and I walk back up to the gleaming house, listening for the horses. ”
Over the three decades, as I walk up from the barn at night and look at the lights glowing in our house, I marvel at the life within, even when our children had flown away to live in distant cities. My love dwells inside those glowing windows — we hope for many more years here on the farm– as many as God grants us to stay put.
It is home and it is light and if all it takes is a walk from a dark barn to remind me, I’ll leave the lights on in the barn at night more often.
I’m grateful once again for the opportunity to see, even in the dark, the manifestation of glory and love just beyond our vision, praying that one day we will see and know it clearly.