Poetry

Once

when I was a boy, I stood on my head
and imagined the sky was a great blue sea—
one in which I could never drown.

But that sky swallowed me whole, long ago.
Now, so many years later, I stare
into the ivory light of my bedroom window

and ponder the stranger I’ve become.
Searching for wherever
that boy might be.

I return to a fork in an old, familiar road long since
visited, which at one time was a great mystery
to me. A trace of what was once me still lingers there.

And when the long limbs of the tall trees
stir the slowly moving light of day—suddenly
the past comes rushing at me like a whirlwind.

And I wonder how it is that I’ve kept
so many fields and rivers and valleys and
lakes and bluffs and waterfalls and mountains

and caves and quarries and deep woods and
bridges and railroad tracks and abandoned roads
and stairwells and secret alleys and rooftops

jarred up in a
single
looking glass.

And I wonder what at all I learned
about life while lounging
in the high branches of magnolia trees,

or in the backseat of some old, smoky jalopy,
or rummaging through the wiry steel hills
of the city scrap yard, or running with the

bushy-tailed fawns into cold, naked woods,
or banging on the piano
at that party.

71 thoughts on “Once”

  1. Nitin says:

    Beautiful

  2. M says:

    And when the long limbs of the tall trees
    stir the slowly moving light of day—suddenly
    the past comes rushing at me like a whirlwind

    Nice! The whole thing, but the cadence of this stanza was arresting.

    1. John Foster says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s interesting to see what parts of the poem stick out.

  3. aflameofword says:

    Serene and real, perfect in my opinion!

    1. John Foster says:

      Quite a compliment! Thanks very much.

  4. Vice says:

    I love everything I’ve read of yours. Hope to see more soon.

    1. John Foster says:

      That’s a very great compliment. Thank you for reading what’s here, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it.

  5. Vashti Quiroz-Vega says:

    Wow John! Your poem is absolutely beautiful. Reading it left me with such a good feeling. Bravo! :D

    1. John Foster says:

      Vashti, it’s a true delight to hear from you again. Thank you so much for keeping up with my work and for leaving such nice words.

      1. Vashti Quiroz-Vega says:

        You’re very talented, John. It’s a pleasure reading your work. :D

  6. Rachel Stock-Lignitz says:

    “and caves and quarries and deep woods and
    bridges and railroad tracks and abandoned roads
    and stairwells and secret alleys and rooftops”

    Wow, wow! I love the way this sounds coming off my tongue.

    1. John Foster says:

      Thanks so much for reading–I’m delighted that you would read this aloud. I’m glad you enjoyed this part of the poem; thank you very much for your feedback.

  7. Leah says:

    Still deep and thoughtful as ever. Reminds me of one of your old songs but all grown up.

    1. John Foster says:

      Thanks, Leah. It means a lot.

  8. learningtocry says:

    : )
    Your welcome. Look forward to reading more of your words.

  9. learningtocry says:

    Perfect. I was a child of nature, as well as my son. We both spent our days filled with daydreams, blue skies,and fresh air.
    I did homeschool (unschool) with my sons for seven years. My youngest spent a good deal of his time outside, in the backyard, in the playhouse his dad built for him and his brother, wading in creeks, climbing trees, or building tree houses. I knew i would never know all the wisdom he was gaining out there. But that was not my business, it was his. No curriculum could have provided all that he learned.
    Thank you for your beautiful poem.
    Suzanne

    1. John Foster says:

      It’s great to read how this poem speaks to your own experiences. In the world we live in today, the wisdom and perspectives offered by nature are often overlooked. We can learn so much from the wilderness, as it speaks to the great mysteries of our origin and the processes of a Earth itself. No amount of technology can replicate the complexity of this system, and for that I think it is the most valuable. I’m glad you can relate, and I’m very glad you enjoyed the poem–thank you for reading and for your excellent feedback.

  10. Matthew Kosak says:

    Well written piece…It’s been a while since I’ve “banged on an old piano.”

    1. John Foster says:

      Thanks for reading, it’s been a while for me as well.

  11. skywalkerstoryteller says:

    I really like this poem. You are a talented writer. Thanks for following me. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    1. John Foster says:

      It’s my pleasure, and likewise I look forward to seeing your posts in my feed. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

  12. hittingthegroundwhiledreaming says:

    This reminds me of “The Road Not Taken” which is my favorite because it was the first poem I ever understood and memorized as a kid. It’s really lovely.

    1. John Foster says:

      Interesting connection, so glad you shared it with me, such a classic poem. Thanks so much for your feedback.

  13. penningtonhall says:

    A beautiful read! Thanks for sharing such greatness. ☺

    1. John Foster says:

      Thank you for reading and for your comment. Glad you enjoyed it. Best wishes.

  14. mechristandchronicdisease says:

    I love your imagery in this poem and it immediately brought me back to my own childhood haunts.

    1. John Foster says:

      I’m delighted you could see your own experiences reflected in the poem. Thanks for reading!

  15. Shashank Bhardwaj says:

    Hey! Your words are worth this and much more praise, please accept this and don’t forget to share: To share what I get — The Liebster Award –https://writingstoheaven.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/the-leibster-award/

    1. John Foster says:

      I’m grateful for your nomination, thank you very much!

    1. John Foster says:

      I’m humbled and grateful for your nomination, thank you very much!

    1. John Foster says:

      Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

  16. intrepidmuses says:

    So glad that you found my blog…so that now I discovered yours!

    The curious wonder of childhood! I really like your poem, it reminded me of a great song by Sleep at Last called East from this Atlas Collection:

    1. John Foster says:

      Great to read your comment; thank you for reading my poem. I’ll be sure to check your link, thanks for sharing it!

    1. John Foster says:

      So glad you enjoyed. Thanks for reading.

  17. Helen says:

    A really beautiful reflection – and like all good reflections, I could find echoes of my own remembered life in the little vignettes you throw out for the reader. It opened doors for my imagination as well as my personal memories. Specific details, universal themes (or something like that!). Really well written – thanks for sharing John.

    1. John Foster says:

      I’m especially glad you could connect with the poem in your own way. Thanks for the excellent feedback!

  18. Anne says:

    I was hooked from the first line. Beautiful.

  19. krysiakorsak says:

    …man, here but for a season, wearing his/ her many labels and hats! Aaaah, that question again, the meaning of life? Lots of familiar feelings and emotions and I am familiar with them all…and so the journey continues. Thanks once again, a lovely poem with indeed a skilful command of language.

    1. John Foster says:

      I’m very glad you were able to connect with this poem. Thanks for you very engaged comments.

  20. Breanna Joy says:

    Beautiful! I love the gorgeous flowing imagery!

  21. Shashank Bhardwaj says:

    It’s really beautiful, although i agree it was hard for me to grasp, I would love to hear you out someday as to how you create magic with words :)

    1. John Foster says:

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. Let me know if I can answer any specific questions you have.

  22. dara40 says:

    Absolute poetry. I read little today that resembles poetry but your writing does.

    1. John Foster says:

      That’s a very great compliment. Thank you very much.

  23. OldenGray says:

    Beautifully written. Your mastery of words come to life from start to end!

    1. John Foster says:

      Great to see you back, and thanks all the more for reading and sharing your thoughts and kind words.

  24. camillae says:

    Oh, the pathos! ‘banging on the piano at that party’ –
    You have that ever-requited skill of internal/external, past/present duality, bringing us as readers shyly into this vague, but descriptive narrative scene – and we stand next to you as you look out this window at the memory landscape around you, then we’re pushed out and we’re just observing you lounging in a tree, and then with the ending – there’s a deep breath in, and eyebrows raised empathetically. I found myself unexpectedly smiling sadly. Smiling with some kind of emergent personal meaning, I think..

    A beautiful poem.

    1. John Foster says:

      What an excellent comment and rich source of feedback. I’m so glad that you have taken something with you from this poem, and that you would share it with your comment. It is both encouraging and a great insight into how the work is received by others. Many thanks for your words, I appreciate them greatly.

    1. John Foster says:

      So very kind of you to say, thank you.

  25. cdog5 says:

    This is absolutely lovely, John. :)

  26. kiwiskan says:

    Love this poignant poem…

  27. rubble2bubble says:

    Poetry, when in service, is a God-breathed gift. I hear the rise and fall of a Heavenly Heart: He Is very near in this poem.

    1. John Foster says:

      I’m humbled by your very generous and uplifting words, thank you.

  28. cote8050 says:

    wow, lovely and powerful…. I really like this, thanks:)

    1. John Foster says:

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment, glad you liked it.

  29. wiedienacht says:

    Pensive and sweet. I like this a lot. I think quite a few people can relate to this. Thanks for sharing.

    1. John Foster says:

      I am glad you can relate, thanks for your kind words and especially for reading.

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