Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Favorite Poem

image via pinterest

A few nights ago, I was sitting at the dining table with Freckled Boy working on the invites to our pre-wedding Bon Voyage celebration (Future Un-Freckled Brother-in-Law refers to this as "the Preception") and somehow we ended up discussing a sad event.

When I was just out of college, my parents had a house fire and lost pretty much everything. Thankfully, they were safe from harm. But among the "everything" lost were 2/3 of my gigantic book collection. The parents were storing for me since I didn't have the space in my teeny first apartment.

With most things, enough time allows you to make light of things a bit and my mother always jokes now that all that paper added fuel to the fire. We laugh about it, because what else can you do really?

Anyway, back to the dinner table with Freckled Boy. He asked me if I'd replaced all those books. The truth was, after my initial sad shock, I began to realize that I didn't need to have them all around me. They had given me so much in the time we spent together - almost like a family pet, or the views from a long train ride in a foreign country.

There was a copy of one book, though, that I was elated to find shelved in a used bookstore a year or so after the fire. Tattered and slightly dust-infused, it was one dollar and I would have paid one hundred. It was the old 1970's college anthology, with a pink and brown municipal building-style generic seascape on the cover. The pages were what I call "bible paper thin". The version I'd owned pre-dated me by 10 or so years, so I was really shocked to find another. But there it was, the book where late in the night a 15 year old girl found her favorite poem.

I immediately jumped up from the table when I remembered and plucked it from our shelf just under Jason's favorite bottle of Gin. I hadn't opened the book in years, but the minute I did, it fell open to the poem. Apparently, I had also trained the spine of the replacement copy to go there from frequent use as well.

Wallace Stevens (1879 - 1955)
The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.


  1. Really like this poem. "the access of perfection to the page." Love that.