Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels

Just about a month from now I'm set adrift,
a diploma for a sail and lots of nerve for oars.
—Richard Halliburton.

These marvels surpassed Superman
flying over Gotham, hands stretched out
catching thermals, staring down—
eyes drilling through reinforced concrete.

These marvels required a flying carpet,
a passport beyond the fire escape,
a bus beyond the last stop where the city stops,
beyond the red yo yo going around the world
on a twisted Egyptian string
and over the last tree
on one hundred seventy-sixth street.

At night I conjured up Tibet
before I found Tibet on a map—
I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on foot
the year before I lay on Jones Beach
and my ears burned till they bled.
While walking to the end of my street
I visualized Mongolia
and the Sphinx burning up in the desert.

When the heat sent people outside
and fire hydrants turned into spouting whales
I traveled on a donkey
down Bright Angel trail
and bathed in the Colorado.

I placed my hand on the Book of Marvels,
inhaled the footsteps
and vowed to walk up Mt Fuji,
vowed to be intrepid,
to travel to places first
before they entered on anyone's itinerary.

Linda Watskin ©2010


  1. So many thoughts went through my mind as I read your poem. When reading someone else's story, the best we can do is to imagine ourselves in that place and time and feel our own reactions. I absolutely love and agree with the conclusion you found in those last lines.

    I used to manage a New/Used bookstore. Loved the exotic places the Old book customers came from and the stories they told that created dreams in my own person. But, loved the new book customers with their curiousity about what was inside the covers and if it would help them in their own plans for fulfilling their dreams.

    Keep reading and writing,


  2. Linda I love the direction you went with this prompt!

  3. You took us on quite a journey, and I'm still in the air after reading that. Thank you.

  4. Writing can transport us to other worlds and that's no mean form of travel!

  5. With writing you can travel anywhere. What a wondefully exotic journey your words took me on.

  6. Oh for such a flying carpet. I think I would join you in Mongolia! Well written to prompt.

  7. Delightful! I love it. My favorite line is "a passport beyond the fire escape". It's such an evocative poem, stanza by stanza, and I love the way it ends.

  8. seems quite a jump from Mongolia to the land of the Sphinx but then you can do that in a dream.

  9. We get so accustomed to comfortable soil (not that it's wrong doing that), then miss what we don't even know we have to miss. Far perceptions can be so much more and other than what we think is all there is. I like how this poem drops from out of the sky, landing who knows where next.
    Thanks Linda.

  10. I like your wanderlust trailblazer sentiments. Fantastic flying carpet.

  11. I liked everything about this poem, the theme, the style, the imagery, the whimsicality of second stanza:

    a passport beyond the fire escape,
    a bus beyond the last stop where the city stops,
    and over the last tree
    on one hundred seventy-sixth street.

    Loved the final stanza - some books invoke in me a similar fervour. Correction: some writings invoke in me a similar fervour, and this (your poem) is one. Thank you!