"Because hate is legislated, written into the primer and the testament, shot into our blood and brain like vaccine or vitamins
Because our day is of time, of hours--and the clock-hand turns, closes the circle upon us: and black timeless night sucks us in like quicksand, receives us totally--without a rain check or a parachute, a key to heaven or the last long look
I need love more than ever now ... I need your love---"
I first read these opening lines of Walter Benton's poem, This Is My Beloved, forty three years ago. I remember finding this small volume of verse in a downtown bookstore in Cedar Rapids. By today's standards, $3.95 wasn't much to pay for a book, but at that time in my life, it was a lot. Still, I had to own the most hauntingly beautiful poetry I had ever read.
The book is written in diary form. It covers the beginning of a love affair until its hopeful, hopeless end. Walter Benton was serving as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps of the US Army when he wrote his touching journal. It was published the year I was born, 1943.
I'm sure I stood in the bookstore and read the entire poem - then may have left only to come back the next day to buy the book. The poem was unlike anything I'd ever read. I was so naive then, but I knew eroticism when I read it. I was afraid the clerk would look at me askance when I checked out.
My twenty-fourth year was one of new discoveries. My husband and I were separated. I moved from my small hometown area in SW Iowa all the way across the state to the second largest city in Iowa. I moved away from a family support system to a place where I knew not a single soul. Having my little boy with me kept me steady, but I wanted someone to love. Walter Benton knew the kind of love I was looking for.
Arthur Prysock recorded Benton's words to a background of soft jazz in 1968. I owned this album
This version was by far my favourite.
I no longer have my vinyl collection. But after re-reading This Is My Beloved and remembering Laurence Harvey's voice and Herbie Mann's music, I'm thinking of ordering a CD.
"I will be forgetting you each day and every hour. Each night and day, each hour something wonderful and dear of you will ring my heart and knock upon my mind.
Each time I hear Gilbert and Sullivan -- Strauss, see ginkgo trees, read Lewis Carroll: see flowering dogwood or smell locust, acacia, sweet honeysuckle, lily of the valley ... or wild roses."