The greatest gift
Was to be sometimes Robin Hood,
Odysseus upon the seas,
King Oberon among the trees.
I was Huckleberry Finn.
I rode to war with Gunga Din.
I fled in fear from old Blind Pugh,
And sailed with Long John Silver too.
I slew Goliath with a stone;
I flew where Icarus has flown.
And on the Eve of Christmas Day,
I knelt with oxen in the hay
Where the Holy Manger stood.
It stirred in me, as nothing could,
The Gift to be sublimely other...
Then ran home at night to mother
From the glories of pretending
In a sunlit world unending.
But a darkling
On my youth when childhood ended.
Though, now and then, a matinee
Could fool the garish eye of day,
And Bogie, with a sneer, transport me,
Or Mitchum manfully exhort me
To be some beastly desperado
And wallow briefly in bravado.
Or Marilyn could stir my lust
And lead me furtively to trust
In life so succulently girled,
A never-was, nor-will-be world.
And when the matinees let out
And plunged me once again in doubt,
And sunlit pavements hurt my eyes,
Blinded, I could still surmise
That selfish fantasies did seem
Superior to daylight's dream.
If these are all
(For schools never teach the uses
Of divine Imagination,
Futile, utile education)
The Gift cannot be wholly lost,
Nor innocence wholly debauched.
If selfishness has closed the gates
Of larger life, the gift awaits
Within the sleeping soul, forlorn,
A child waiting to be born
Again. With night descending,
And the unending world now ending,
And salvations I had sought,
Aged and wrinkled, come to naught,
I find once more the Gift within,
And turning finally to Him,
I take...forever now... relief
In my suspended disbelief.