Regarding A Gift of Joy, Helen Hayes’ Autobiography
by Ren Powell

I fear I am slowly forgetting
how to write a poem.
How to coax the sounds to line up
and sing inside my head
with the voices of those forgotten,
those anonymous, recorded
in my developing brain, inside
my body, inside my mother’s body:

the pure soundtrack of becoming.
Allusions. Every poem
is a wink of recognition;
every poet is enthralled
with the music of her own
species. And the actress is a sonorous
medium for the dead. Her autobiography
is all intertextuality: a memory of a whisper

echoing over seven centuries
to meet me here. Now here
in that soft spot that has never healed
she has been the go-between to mingle me
with everyone who has ever written.
On page 203 the scalloped page channels
the woman who channels Wordsworth
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting”

But I read, and I remember still.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Never judge a book by its cover. A Gift of Joy by Helen Hayes New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1965).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am someone who has learned not to hold onto things too tightly. I have few possessions that have significant emotional memories: my children’s baby clothes, my grandmother’s costume jewelry, and this book. I originally tried to write a prose piece about it, but memories intruded and the little paragraph stretched to a thousand words. It was the first book I bought for myself, with my own money. I was 10. I misunderstood the cosmic message and thought for many years that my kinship with Hayes meant that I was destined to be an actress. Nope.


Ren Powell
is a native Californian who has made her home in the southwest of Norway. Her sixth poetry collection is forthcoming this year with Wigestrand Publishers. Her selected works Mercy Island is available in North America through Phoenicia Publishing and Amazon.