W. H. Auden reported he was told
by a friend to take up poetry.
It seemed achievable and mysterious enough.
It was a bit like falling in love with
the name of a rock, like zircon
or uranium instead of wanting to know
the rock itself. It was a way of keeping
in mind that ‘the child hiding in the
shadow of a house with a lizard held
loosely in his soft left hand’ is not a
description of something, it is the
proper name of that child and the
name of my experience of meeting him
there. When I asked him his name
he searched his memory and his
vocabulary, and looked down at the
lizard moving on his palm, and at his young
brother whispering into his chest,
and said, eventually, Dylan. Do you
live here, I asked him, or are you
visiting. Live here, he said. Do you
want to come to school, I asked him.
He looked at the lizard again, his brother
whispered up at him again, he looked
around at the grass, the shadows, the
desert beyond us and almost said yes.
His brother pointed to another pale
sightless looking creature in the grass
and they went away. Names float away
here as easily as days.