Max Reif
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On Memorizing A Poem

“In the beginning was the Word.”
Creation is involved here,
not just “print-on-a-page”!
These are flowers
of the ages,

Nor can you clip them
and stuff them
in a mental vase.
You have to plant them,
inside!

First-reading scatters
the seeds of words,
atoms whirling with life,
even the ones that seem inert.

Then: repetition
becomes the steady hand
holding the watering can.

Imperceptibly,
every word sprouts.
Tendrils grow,
reach out, join hands, join

a clause, a sentence. Finally,
each word so tropically bonded
it no longer exists alone.

A stanza coheres. The force
flows on,
new critical mass,
the spirit leaps
across the gap to the next stanza,
back to the one before!

Every reading, connections firmer.
New ones arise, flourish
like bougainvillea. Roads appear.
Signs. Turn Left Here.
Paths and gardens of knowing
form in the brain.
Flowering vines
climb up in the air,
perfume it, <i>above</i> the brain!

Finally, a world
lives inside to be invoked,
called forth like a genie.

Every poem or story
made one’s own
initiates its keeper
into a long line
stretching back
to ancient campfires.

Every teller chants with Homer,
Valmiki, bards whose names
we do not know- carries
this Light in eyes

onward
POET'S NOTES ABOUT THE POEM
I noted repeatedly the Magic I experienced during the process of memorizing poems for 'Oral Tradition' evenings that I occasionally attended, where everything had to be 'by heart'. And finally, I decided to try to express this miracle I was repeatedly experiencing.
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