My Last Trick-or-Treat

About 1961 in grade 6, my friend Bob Hutchinson and I decided to take a chance and go trick-or-treating, although most of our classmates had stopped the practice, being ‘too old’. I went to one house on a ‘higher-up’ street where we believed the treats might be better or more generous. I was unexpectedly waylaid by a man in his 30s who insisted I perform a trick–the first time I’d ever been asked for one. He waited until I came up with a recitation of the first poem I ever memorized in school in grade 5. Stumblingly–I’d learned it the year before, but hadn’t said it since then–I surprisingly began to recite “Some One” by Walter de la Mare.

Some one came knocking
At my wee, small door;
Some one came knocking;
I’m sure-sure-sure;
I listened, I opened,
I looked to left and right, But nought there was a stirring
In the still dark night;
Only the busy beetle
Tap-tapping in the wall,
Only from the forest
The screech-owl’s call,
Only the cricket whistling
While the dewdrops fall
So I know not who came knocking,
At all, at all, at all.

Well, that confirmed that Halloweening was going to be a tough gig from that point on; it was my last outing. But I learned something that night about the importance and value of poetry. It could be a performance for an audience as small as one. Poetic words, like magic on the tongue, could move Uncle Henry-types (the hard adult man from Morley Callaghan’s “Luke Baldwin’s Vow”). There was also a mystery about poetry (as in this poem’s subject matter) much like so much of life-experience and Halloween, too. And there was a music in the rhymes and rhythms that could potentially charm and move others as well as myself. This poem–these particular words–were also the most powerful words I had ever uttered to another human being up to that point in time. Little did I know then, that this was the start of the poet that one day I would become. That mere lad, nervously reciting from memory on the cold fall front-steps, all for a transitory treat.

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