Parting Glances: Time Flies! That's For Sure!



BY CHARLES ALEXANDER
Originally printed 4/28/2016 (Issue 2417 - Between The Lines News)

One of the pleasures for a writer or an artist is to come across an early composition or art piece and experience finding it with a sense of reading or seeing it for the first time. (Like coming across an old Polaroid picture. Oh, my God! Is that really me?) Such happened to me just the other day.

I was emailed an art piece image -- "Rainbow Vibes" -- I had done 20 years ago, favorably commented upon, I might add -- and while tidying up my desk recently, I found copies of a lost, forgotten 1995 interview on Detroit gay bars, and a poem, "The Clock" I had written sometime in the 1950s.

And given a big May birthday that's coming up, "The Clock" is certainly timely.

Shortly before retiring from the digitally enhanced combat called teaching, I originally came across my poem in a volume of DPS Reporter issues about students, teachers and education, circa the mid-1950s. I was indeed startled to discover it.

My poem dates from the ninth grade at Harry Burns Hutchins Intermediate School, to and from which I took a 10-cent bus ride for three reasonably happy years. The school was located on Woodrow Wilson and Blaine, in a then predominantly Jewish neighborhood. I still judge Hutchins as one of the best learning experiences of my long life.

"The Clock" was originally included in a student-illustrated, hand-stapled, mimeograph booklet, "The Coach and Four." (I began writing poetry during my summer at Baptist Camp. The poetic gift came along with an equally inspiring crush on my camp counselor, Jerry Somebodyorother.)

Though I wrote "The Clock" when I was 14 or 15, I'll be the first to admit -- modestly, of course -- that there is about its rhyme-scheme brevity a touch of precocious, otherworldly, Emily Dickinsonian Americana genius. (Got that?)

Having provided such introductory palaver, here's the poem in its pristine simplicity. (I'll be delighted to read it in person for any festive occasion warranting the inclusion of a spiritually uplifting, LGBT inspired composition. Gratis.) And so ...

"Our dusty old clock sits on the shelf/ Ticking softly there by itself/ Slowly counting the hours away/ As night turns to another day./ Winter. Summer. The whole year through/ Tick tock. I hear it. Do you?/ We grow old and pass away/ But the clock goes on from day to day."

Oh, well. I was only several months post-pubescent when I yielded to that premature calling of the muse. (Shared in passing: when I went to Burton Elementary School, part of our learning experience was poetry memorization. So, if asked -- again gratis -- I can recite William Wordsworth's now very spring apropos, "The Daffodils." "When oft upon my couch I lie ..."

Come to think of it: as a kid I was Mr. Starlit Stairway, with an enthusiasm I find refreshing now looking back, but also now curious, given my penchant for being shy in public places in these my advancing years. (Since when, Mary?)

At Hutchins I also did a ventriloquism act, with a dummy named Hermann purchased at Hall's Magic Shop, long vanished from Downtown Detroit. I haven't a clue what my script was. I think it had something to do with the terrors of jaywalking, but apparently I got enthusiastic applause for my schizoid efforts. (And an A in Auditorium.)

That same year I put on a magic show at the Cass Avenue Methodist Church. As a proud owner of a multipurpose Gilbert's Magic Set (linking rings, deck of prepared cards, trick magic wands, vanishing handkerchiefs, fake mustache), I felt myself Harry Houdini incarnate. Handcuffs and straight jackets came much later.

My assistant was Carolyn Clark, whose father George Murray claimed to have worked with famed magician Harry Blackstone, one of magicdom's greats. But Carolyn and I had a grand time. The applause and free dinner made stars of us, if only for an hour's indulgence.

As I approach my 80th birthday in two weeks, I smile at the refreshing, unsullied innocence of the likable kid I think I was. Life had a "Wow! Pow!" quality about it. Get out on stage! Take charge! Pull rabbits out of hats! Change silken hankies ... purple, blue, green, red, yellow, orange ... Take bows. Tweak mustaches. Hocus locus!

Oh, yes! I'm busy on a new birthday poem. (As soon as I can figure out what rhymes with Shinola.) Tempus fugit.

Charles@pridesource.com
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