Dan and I went to hear Susan McLean read at a poetry reading sponsored by the Leesburg Poetry Series in Leesburg, Va. on Friday night. Afterwards we were invited by Claudia Gary Annis, the inexhaustible woman who organizes the entire series, to join her and Susan and several other artists at a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner and drinks. It was a wonderful evening and I was, as always, struck by the sheer and simultaneous beauty and violence of words and language when held in the hands of a poet or writer.
It was, however, the aftermath of the evening which has stuck with me - and which has, once again, shown me that reality can never truly be duplicated by words - nor can language alone ever hold the same terrible and awesome power that life, itself, possesses.
After taking leave of our new-found companions, Dan and I were walking towards our car. I was flush with the excitement and the joy of the night and the beauty of the town which is Leesburg and, as usual, I was not really paying much attention to the rest of the world. I did, however, at the last possible moment, notice a rather large group of wildly gesturing teenagers in front of The Tally Ho Theater and I was sufficiently aware of the hour and the darkness that I prudently considered the idea of crossing the street right now might be a very good one. As we were jaywalking across we noticed two of the young boys (who had been obviously arguing with the only adult present) suddenly breaking free from the group and running down a nearby alley way. From our vantage point across the street, we could see that a third boy, probably about 12 or 13 years old, had been left leaning against the building, holding his head in his hands.
As we got into our car I was struck with a sudden severe case of medic/mother remorse and guilt and so I asked Dan if we could drive back and make sure the boy was not seriously injured. By the time we drove around the block and returned to the scene there was a core group of approximately 8 or 9 young teens standing around the injured boy who was, by now, holding a very large bag of ice to his left eye area. Of those still standing around, four or five of them were young girls, the rest were equally young males and there was still the one adult who later turned out to be the boy's father. I identified myself as a former medic and asked if there was anything I could do. The boy immediately lowered his six-pound ice bag and offered his head and eye for examination. He'd been popped pretty good, with both swelling and bruising already present but the laceration itself was not large and, while actively continuing to ooze, was not profusely bleeding. The ice was a good idea, but the application of ice directly onto unprotected skin is never the optimal mode of delivery. I asked the crowd around him if anyone had a handkerchief (yeah, right, in this day and age) or some other type of cloth with which the ice could be covered and almost immediately one of the girl, a pretty little blonde who was noticably dressed to impress in her Friday night best, shrugged off her immaculate and obviously brand-new white sweater and offered it to me. I was reluctant to take it, telling her it would get bloody and that bloodstains do not come off, ever, and she smiled and said, "I don't care. He's my friend."
Poetry conveys - life is.
There's been no poetry ever written in this world, past, present or future, which says more or which speaks so eloquently or which offers more hope.