My love for literature goes way, way back. I remember my parents reading to me as a young child, and I was truly mesmerized. I listened to their breath change as they spoke the words on the pages. I knew then that The Written Word and I would always be pals.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my English teacher left in the middle of the school year to take a job with a non-profit educational foundation. His last day in the classroom was emotional, but it was particularly memorable for me because I saw a grown man cry freely over something that wasn’t sad.
You see, my friend Joelle’s tribute to him was reading this poem aloud, and it was the first time I was truly breathless over the power of literature. It winded me, just as sure as I had been sacked by a linebacker. I saw Mr. C’s feelings crescendo as she spoke, and as his tears fell when she stopped speaking, all he said was, “thank you.”
Yet it’s surprising now, even after all these years, and as many times as I have read this poem, that it can still catch my breath. But then again, not such a surprise at all. And that’s the whole point.
‘I am cherry alive,” the little girl sang,
“Each morning I am something new:
I am apple, I am plum, I am just as excited
As the boys who made the Hallowe’en bang:
I am tree, I am cat, I am blossom too:
When I like, if I like, I can be someone new,
Someone very old, a witch in a zoo:
I can be someone else whenever I think who,
And I want to be everything sometimes too,
And I put it in along with everything
To make the grown-ups laugh whenever I sing:
And I sing : It is true; It is untrue;
I know, I know, the true is untrue,
The peach has a pit,
The pit has a peach:
And both may be wrong
When I sing my song,
But I don’t tell the grown-ups, because it is sad,
And I want them to laugh just like I do
Because they grew up
And forgot what they knew
And they are sure
I will forget it some day too.
They are wrong. They are wrong.
When I sang my song, I knew, I knew!
I am red, I am gold,
I am green, I am blue,
I will always be me,
I will always be new!”
“I am Cherry Alive,” by Delmore Schwartz