12: Edmund the Poet

Mrs. Mapleberry didn’t understand Edmund’s passion for reading at all. She would shake her head in amazement when he asked for another book from the bookshelf, and would tisk in dismay whenever she caught him reading one of the large ones she had intended to throw out.

“Reading is such an odd hobby for little boys,” Mrs. Mapleberry told him once after throwing away a book on the bone structure of the foot, her thick rosy cheeks barely containing her manic grin. “You should try painting with bright colors, to show off your pleasant personality. Or perhaps take up writing; parents love creative children.”

It was perhaps in a desperate attempt to kindle the creative spirit in Edmund that when he was six, Mrs. Mapleberry gave him a book on poetry titled ‘The Mechanics and Structure of Verse, a Primer to the Aspiring Poetic’ by Sir Peeres Ekes. It was full of numbers and charts, ascribing values to the different meters and rhymes used in poetry. Certain meters were best for romantic poetry, while others were used solely for epics. There was even a meter for ‘poems of a lascivious nature,’ whatever that was. The word intrigued Edmund, but Sir Ekes only mentioned it once in the whole book and didn’t elaborate as to its meaning.

There was something scientific about poetry; It was almost like math.

The prospect of actually putting anything that he had read to use intrigued Edmund, as did the idea of reading something that he had actually written himself, so he eventually asked Mrs Mapleberry for a notebook. When she gave him an old half-used one, he wrote in it constantly, filling the thin volume with tiny words.

He decided he liked poetry. Combine certain words in certain ways, and you achieve a desired result. With math the result was just another number, but with poetry it was a picture in his head, or a smell creeping through his memory like a spring fog.

He wrote several poems, practicing first by writing one about his bed. He thought it turned out well, so he tried to write one about himself, but he didn’t know how to start it. Finally, he wrote one about the rafters that framed the dining hall. He was quite proud of it, and it must have shown, because as he was putting the finishing touches on it one evening, Mrs. Mapleberry took his notebook out of his hands without asking and began to read.

Edmund was horrified. He hadn’t thought that anyone would ever actually read his poetry. His mind searched for a proper protest; some phrase or declaration that would stop her from prying into his private thoughts.

Luckily, Mrs. Mapleberry’s eyes grew wide and she gave the notebook back with alarming speed. She never talked to him about writing poetry again, and even seemed to avoid him for a few weeks afterward. Edmund was happy about that, so he kept writing.

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