Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Poetic Mystery

Once upon a time, I was paging through my mother’s photo album. Not the, we-are-a-family-all-about-my-children-type-photo-album, mind you, this was her real memory book; the one from before she had kids, the one with the cool pictures of a very young, sassy thing who sported the first ducktail haircut in her high school.

There, in the pages, was a folded piece of paper with a poem inside. She did not write the poem – I know this because at the bottom she’d written “Author Unknown”... I love this poem... absolutely love it. I loved it from the first moment I read it, back when I was about sixteen and when she recently brought me over a typed copy to have, remembering how much I liked it, I read it again... I still love it.

So, where did it come from? Well, now that’s the question that’s bugging me. So I thought I’d put it up here to see if any of you wonderful, and well-read bloggers might be able to point me in the right direction toward finding the author. My mother originally found the poem in a magazine (she can’t remember which one) back in the late fifties or very early sixties. According to that article, the poem was on a plaque at the entranceway to a boys’ reformatory.

The Clock

I swear that I ain’t stirbugs, Doc,
But in my dreams, I see a clock;
Bigger’n all the world, it seems,
The clock I see, in all my dreams.

‘N fightin’ the hands, I always see,
The little kid I usta be,
‘N hear the kid I once was, cry,
“Turn back! Turn back, before I die!”

‘N scream, ‘n scream, but no one’s there,
‘Cause those who shoulda, didn’t care.

Ya know, Doc, good kids don’t just grow,
It takes some decent folks to show
A kid just what he’s gotta be,
To fit into society.

‘N as a kid, I never had
No one to show me good from bad,
Exceptin’ other kids who thought
That bad meant only getting’ caught.

So I went bad ‘cause no one good,
Looked at a kid, ‘n understood.
I’ll tell ya, no one wants to be,
A menace, to society.

There ain’t a guy inside this pen,
Who wouldn’t like to start again,
And keep the kid he usta be,
From bein’ a case history.

But that’s just wishful thinkin’, Doc,
You never can turn back the clock.

I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I do. If you happen to recognize it and know who the author is or where it came from, I’d love to know... Or if you’ve got any good ideas on how to find out, that would be great, too.


Travis Erwin said...

No idea of the origin, but I like it. and thanks for chiming in on my sample.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Travis,

I'm betting it'll stay a mystery, but it would be really cool to find out who wrote it.

No problem chiming in - I love your voice, I can't wait to read the novel.

SUV MAMA said...

Merry- I'm forwarding this to my Mom (English Prof.) and I'll see if she has any leads.

I love it!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi SUV!!!

Thank you so much! It would be so cool to find out who wrote it - as it was supposedly posted at a boys' reformatory, I wonder if it wasn't written by someone there, rather than a professional writer.

Glad you liked it - it's one of those that sticks with you.

SUV MAMA said...

Okay, Mom looked it up. She couldn't find it and didn't recognize it, but suggested I looked it up and coulnd't find it either...

I wonder if it was indeed written by a student (or teacher) and never actually published. Interesting!

Merry Monteleone said...


Thank your mom for me. You know, that would be a great story: it was written by one of the boys in his English class. The teacher saw enough promise, in this boy on the wrong track, to encourage his writing and mentor him, even making sure his writing appeared on a plaque at the reformatory's wall. The boy went on to become a writer of modest means, but still a man of success with a family and life who didn't fall down the slippery slope so many of his contemporaries succumb to...

Okay, why am I not writing That story?

SUV MAMA said...

Well, if you do, can I get a signed copy? Pretty Please??

I'm coming to Chicago in August...