One of the best days of my life when I was a kid was the day I discovered Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Reading that story was like gorging yourself at a buffet, except you could keep eating and eating and never get full, and the words and rhythms and sentences each tasted different, smelled different, felt different.
Ray Bradbury made a big impression on me, opening that fascinating door into writing and ideas. How did people come up with these stories? How did these people–writers–concoct this five-course meal made of vowels and syllables that often left you more sated than actual food?
Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it…How men envy and often hate these warm clocks, these wives, who know they will live forever.
I’m not sure what I was thinking at 11 or 12 years old reading about “the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity.” But I knew something was happening; I was slipping, sliding down a hill with no beginning or end, just a continuous falling sensation, plummeting into a world of ideas and images, sometimes crystal clear, sometimes just out of reach of understanding.
And what about turning normal, everyday insomnia into a thing of poetic beauty:
Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning, there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three A.M.! Doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out. The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s burned dry.
I loved the metaphors and stream of consciousness musings:
Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?
And deep feelings that had only gently brushed past but had yet to penetrate expressed so succinctly:
Somewhere in him, a shadow turned mournfully over. You had to run with a night like this so the sadness could not hurt.
I can only hope, somewhere in my life, I can construct one sentence as beautiful as Ray Bradbury’s or approach the poetry of his writing.
As I got older I realized how much he had touched me, insinuating some invisible code into my memory that punched back through in moments when I needed it most. But I wonder about that road he wandered, how far down it he went, how far away from it I still am.
I want to wander that road, too, hear what he heard, hold it in my hand, transform it into something billowing softly across the road, a story like a gauzy curtain tossed by a warm wind, a sentence that holds the shadow at bay, a rhythm that reveals in every aching breath and clenching woe where thunder goes when it dies.