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Salix Babylonica

By Carl Scharwath

PROMPT — Who am I today?

My gateway was waiting, just a few timid steps and my world would open to unending explorations. I remember those steps, three concrete footpaths to a backyard that offered limitless opportunities to an eight-year-old. First, I had to circumvent the above ground pool where the splashing of water and friends having fun- filled my memories.

The shadow created from above with my long wire shortwave antenna created a score on my pathway, reflecting and burning into the summer grasses. For so many hours I listened to the radio static hoping to discover a distant voice—The voices that would teach me about other countries and their cultures. The antenna was anchored to my destination, in the far back corner of our yard, a stunning weeping willow tree.

The book in my hand felt comfortable and familiar as the journey to my reading sanctuary awaited. The willow tree was an extension of my room, the graceful arching branches sweeping downwards to hide me from the world. When I began to read, I loved how the flexible like reeds allowed small breezes to set the whole tree in motion. Dream like swirls, the leaves seemed to drip letters right into the pages of my book creating an odyssey in the warm summer afternoon.

Reading took me places the television could not. Being engaged, learning new words, seeing how grammar could paint a picture in your mind had captivated me. I loved the feel of a book, the smell, the cover art, artist biographies, and with my much-used pencil in hand, I could underline those thoughts that I could return to again and relive those special moments.

You know and remember those first experiences, which stay with you forever. The times you can recall, just a memory away with a smile and a warming of the soul—your first friend, your first kiss, first bicycle and your first car are memories as fresh as yesterday to me. Under that swaying tree, the humidity hung like branches, and I remembered the first book I read. The book was actually a comic book called Classics Illustrated and the story was The Count of Monte Cristo. I loved the story of a man wrongfully accused who learns of a vast treasure and becomes determined to escape his captures and find the treasure to use for vengeance against those who betrayed him. Turning pages as fast as I could read, thoughts absorbed like a sponge on those magical ink filled canvases held in my hands. I always had books ready to read, standing like dreams between bindings on my bedroom dresser.

As a child and into adulthood, my choice in reading was always the classics. I not only felt those beautiful sentences but also loved the way they used descriptive words, the process of building characters, and their innovative ideas. Being an avid reader, I would become a writer myself, although extremely late in life. I thought I can do this; they are just words right? All that is needed is time, thought and loving care to arrange the sentences on your computer screen. Every writer has the same choices at their disposal, ready to be formed into a work of literature. Staring at the empty page as a new writer, I realized what was missing: You need an idea, something that will draw the reader into your web of imagination and once I had that, the ink would flow.

My journey into reading has now brought me full circle to becoming a writer. This enormous gift that I gave myself years ago will stay with me always. There is no greater way to learn, be entertained, and enlightened than reading. Books have always entered the landscape of my living area in many places. Artfully arranged in bookshelves, stacked on a dresser, next to a nightstand, and of course sadly hidden in boxes waiting to be discovered again in the garage.

Like a hoarder of words, I still continue to purchase new books, knowing I could never read them in my lifetime. These new works are like a future lover I would never meet. Every room in my house has a book somewhere and I love the feeling of them looking down at me as I drift to sleep and dream of the next you that I will read.


Carl Scharwath's work has appeared globally in 175+ journals. Carl has published three poetry books and his latest book, Playground of Destiny features poetry, short stories and photography (Impspired Press) His two photography books were published by Praxis. He was nominated for two "The Best of the Net Awards" (2021-22). Carl writes from New Smyrna Beach, FL.


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