The Lighted Window

The Lighted Window

Sara Teasdale1884 – 1933

He said:
“In the winter dusk
When the pavements were gleaming with rain,
I walked thru a dingy street
Hurried, harassed,
Thinking of all my problems that never are solved.
Suddenly out of the mist, a flaring gas-jet
Shone from a huddled shop.
I saw thru the bleary window
A mass of playthings:
False-faces hung on strings,
Valentines, paper and tinsel,
Tops of scarlet and green,
Candy, marbles, jacks—
A confusion of color
Pathetically gaudy and cheap.
All of my boyhood
Rushed back.
Once more these things were treasures
Wildly desired.
With covetous eyes I looked again at the marbles,
The precious agates, the pee-wees, the chinies—
Then I passed on.

In the winter dusk,
The pavements were gleaming with rain;
There in the lighted window
I left my boyhood.”

As an adolescent, I found this poem particularly powerful. In preparation for embarking on the great adventure of college, I’ve recently had quite a bit of contact with remnants of my childhood, mainly through cleaning out my closet. It’s hard to put into words, but so much of my life lives in those dusty shelves. Years of imagination and joy are stored within that 6 x 4 x 10 room. Even though I couldn’t have touched any of those toys more than twice since entering high school, it’s difficult to imagine giving them away; I’m still just a boy, and I’m not ready to leave that behind. And yet, once I pack up my belongings next August, I’ll have closed the closet door for the last time. Like the man in the poem, I will have left my boyhood behind, pressing onward for new experiences and joys.

Although I’ve never considered myself much of a poetry fan, I’m getting much better at finding the things I enjoy about it. Even devices as simple as alliteration, such as in “A confusion of color/ Pathetically gaudy and cheap,” catch my attention–not because they achieve some greater symbolic purpose by repeating the letter “c”, but simply because the poet took the time to pick the perfect words there. On the other hand, the repetition of the first lines of the poem in the reprise allowed me to understand the meaning of the poem. No matter how sentimental or nostalgic seeing the pleasures of your past feels, the decision to move on past childhood and toys marks the end of boyhood.

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