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For Jessica and the Williams


I'm not sure that my second

Childhood won't be better

Than the first, for all

The right reasons.

I wish you could have

Been there just to smell

And hear how time passed

Then, as yours passes in

Scents and sounds I am

Privileged to share

Still, there's a tale of

The politics of time that

Hasn't changed one Whitsun's bit

And will hold for every feast-day.

The world of 1944 was brown

And acrid in summer, dank and

Rank in what passed for winter

Even around the sickbed.

Given the  thousand-minute hours

Prefiguring essence of Hell

For endless-aching fevered

Four year-old rheumatics

In wartime, when bombs might seek

Us huddled at siren-call

Under the massive maple table;

Given the shredding of old

Brooklyn Eagles, Lifes, Times

To make pieces for nonexistent,

Even yet unimagined games;

Given the bold new world of

Shiny hucksterism bringing an

Uncle Don to every despised

Quasi-nephew in Buster's shoes:

The family council presented me

With a fifth-hand RCA bedside

Presbyopticon, a worshipful

Congregation of old nags,

Three-penny dreadfuls, unartful

Dodgers, unslaked thirsts,

Alien alleys, rainbow illuminants,

And myriad plastic come-alongs.

Science was the magic word even then,

And the encouragement of madcap drunken

Street dances celebrating urban August

In Japan led to new experiments in

Combinatorial magic.

Unfortunately, soaking the Magic

Decoder Ring in Ovaltine had no more

Effect than peering through the

Holes in backing Masonite hoping

To see Musial and Barney face off

At Ebbets Field in the evening

Stained-ion glow flooding

My Cathodic cathedral.

That was the year my brother,

Who'd spent a decade unravelling

In the counterpane prison before

Parole to chess and cello,

Raided the library and brought

Books with more convincingly

Impossible stories and real images

To wander through in the obligatory

Darkness adults believed brought healing.

No other intoxicant has ever

Held the escape of those magic marks

On fingermuddied twice-alive pulp:

In six months I was sneaking Volume VI

Of the Maroon Miracle, Compton's

Compendium of everything a child could

Ever imagine, down to the bucket brigade

Through the espophagus and the great

Seething gastric boiler-room, from which all

Noxious odors were exported via the Lincoln

And Holland tunnels to my grandfather's

Apartment in East Orange, a place so

Void of citrus that I never trusted

Meaning again.

But ahhhhh, the words.

The lovely mutable












Even numbers never

Became better playmates

For the dark hours,

And the words I still so

Freely prescribe as anodyne

For miseries of mind

Are lineal descendents

Of those magic days,

Of the morning when a

Cloud was blown away from

The moon and, even though

No one would believe me,

I saw the crack of dawn.

The urn root-enfolded

In his daughter's garden

Holds a few hundred

Wonderfully malformed words

And my brother's immutably

Geologic presence.

- David Mitchell

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