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In All the Pools Are Velvet Skies

When I was in first grade and learning to read, my teacher, Mrs. Dowling, assigned each student in class a short poem for practice. The ultimate goal was to read the poems in front of our classmates and parents to show our progress.

Mrs. Dowling gave me Irene Thompson’s poem “Rainy Nights”:

I like the town on rainy nights

When everything is wet –

When all the town has magic lights

And streets of shining jet!

When all the rain about the town

Is like a looking-glass,

And all the lights are upside down

Below me as I pass.

In all the pools are velvet skies,

And down the dazzling street

A fairy city gleams and lies

In beauty at my feet.

Aside from Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein, this was the first poem I had ever read. Though, over the years, the title of the poem and the name of the poet (sorry, Irene!) both escaped my mind, the line I could never shake was: “In all the pools are velvet skies” (9).

My six-year-old brain conjured such an irresistible image of a pool filled with soft, velvety water. I could feel it. I could honestly even smell it! (My paternal grandmother had this very elegant, lavender hand cream that made it feel as though your hands, when rubbed together, were wearing delicate velvet gloves. I guess I subconsciously associated the scent of that powdery lavender with the feel of velvet.)

If I were a visual artist, I could have painted those words in a picture, but my hands could never have captured what my mind saw.

As you can imagine, this one instance was the catalyst for many more to come.

With this so-tangible sensory detail at the forefront of my mind as I grew, I became obsessed with the artistry of language and words. Over the years, the palette in my head created hundreds of word paintings, and I so desperately wanted to find a way to express them—to be able to show others what I saw.

It had never occurred to me (until years later, but that's a story for another time) to transform those words into new words with my own thoughts and emotions tied to them. Now, I have a list in my phone of words and phrases that trigger pictures in my mind that I can’t paint with a brush on canvas but can transform into poetry.

Actually, as I write this now, I wonder why I’ve still never written a poem about pools of velvet skies. Maybe my expectations for it would be too great.

Or maybe one is in the works . . . Stay tuned!

Writing Prompt: Is there a particular texture or smell, or even an image from a line in a poem or a book, that evokes sensory overload in you (positive or negative, really)? Whether in the form of a poem, a list, a story, a paragraph, etc., explore that sensory detail and what it does for you. Share it if you’d like!


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