By Heart

Not the cartoon I watched about 48 years ago, but pretty good...     The first poems I knew by heart I didn't memorize but absorbed: Grandma reciting Stevenson's "The Swing" whenever she gave us a push; a cartoon of "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat" inserted among old Popeyes and Betty Boops, the words set to music, a melodic enabling of memory.   If prayers and nursery rhymes count, those came early, "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" and "Georgie Porgie" in AA/BB rhyme, and the Catholic prayers in first grade. They didn't rhyme, but the rhythms took shape, especially when chanted by a sing-song-y six-year-old.   Required memorization was for the later grades, a few poems among historic prose—"O, Captain! My Captain!" and the Preamble to the Constitution, "In Flanders Fields" and The Gettysburg Address, the latter a kind of poem, although anything without rhythm and rhyme didn't quite count.   Sometimes, at night, the lines fragment into snatches that sweep and flitter like parchment-winged moths under the amethyst dome of approaching sleep: up in the air so blue... the larks, so bravely singing...you elegant fowl... kissed the girls and made them cry...scarce heard amid the guns...we, the people... testing whether that nation... rise up and hear the bells...my soul to keep... the moon, the moon, they danced by the light of the moon...  

 Prompt source: What was the first poem you ever memorized? (NaBloPoMo, April 2, BlogHer)

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