I started reading Jane Kenyon: Collected Poems recently, and was shocked when part of one of the poems described a landmark of my childhood, The Langford Hotel, in Winter Park, Florida.
My family had a membership to the pool, and my dad put on pool/diving shows there, sometimes including my sisters (I took diving lessons when I was older, after the shows had stopped). My sisters tell me that when I was less than a year old, Dad would toss me into the pool as part of the show to wow the crowd with the swimming baby.
Some of my best and worst childhood moments happened there. I still blush about an incident when I was about nine that involved a cute lifeguard, my underwear that had fallen out of my tote bag, and a general announcement: “Is anyone missing these?” And my mom piping up, “Laura, aren’t those yours?” Uh, thanks, Mom.
I spent so many weekend days there it felt like home. And there was this little area, cool and shady, full of tropical animals in a miniature zoo. I spent hours, alone and with friends, on those stone walkways surrounded by mossy trees and screeching monkeys. It was dark and dank and beautiful.
Kenyon’s poem, Cages, which begins, “Driving to Winter Park in March,” brought it rushing back. Here’s part 2.
By the pool, here at the hotel,
animals in cages to amuse us:
monkeys, peacocks, a pair of black swans,
rabbits, parrots, cockatoos,
flamingoes holding themselves on one leg,
perfectly still, as if they loathed
touching the ground.
The black swan floats
in three inches of foul water,
its bright bill thrust under its wing.
And the monkeys: one of them
reaches through the cage
and grabs for my pen, as if
he had finally decided to write a letter
And one lies in the lap of another.
They look like Mary and Jesus
in the Pieta, one searching for fleas
or lice on the other, for succour
on the body of the other–
some particle of comfort, some
consolation for being in this life.
–Jane Kenyon, all rights reserved (from her collection Colors)
The Poetry Friday Roundup is with Tricia (of wonderful Poetry Stretch Mondays) at The Miss Rumphius Effect.