I Wrote a Poem (A Love to Call My Own) - By Jean Benton
by Jean Benton
I Wrote a Poem
When I was fifteen a new boy came to Chesterfield High School. His name was Tim. He was a good looking young man with really white teeth and hair the color of a raven’s wing when the sunlight hits it just right.
All female eyes would watch that gorgeous hair fall over his brow as he talked. When he brushed it back with a quick swipe of his hand, an inaudible, collective sigh would go up from the girls gathered around him.
A few of us thought his nose was too long, but the rest agreed it went perfectly with his dark skin. He was more well dressed than the boys we had grown up with, too. His pants were crisply pressed with a sharp crease down both legs, and he wore color coordinated cardigans over dress shirts.
Tim joined our group by default. The different cliques in our school formed circles before homeroom. When he entered the building from the front, we were the first kids he encountered. We were a friendly bunch, so he stood talking with us in the mornings before the bell rang.
Even though we welcomed his presence, we realized it was only a matter of time before he learned we weren’t the cool kids at Chesterfield High. Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t misfits, but we weren’t fitter-inners either.
Eventually, as expected, it dawned on him that there wasn’t a cool one amongst us. Naturally, he went searching for his own kind. He hadn’t even stayed long enough for most of the group to mourn his passing.
Nevertheless, during his short sojourn with us one of my friends fell for him. She kept her adoration so hidden, no one noticed, especially not Tim. Still, she was heartbroken when he distanced himself from us.
To show I empathized with her, I wrote a sad poem about unrequited love. Looking back, it probably made her feel even worse. On the other hand, fifteen year olds thrive on drama, so she appreciated my effort.
After Tim had moved away, and my friend’s heart had mended, I submitted the poem to Teen Magazine. They printed it. I was proud. My mom was proud. The magazine was put away and forgotten. Several years after the first poem, Teen requested a poem with a bicentennial theme.
I wrote a topical, shallow poem about America‘s youth. When the magazine came out, my poem went sort of seventies viral. High school yearbook committees all over the United States requested permission to use it as their theme. To show their appreciation they sent me copies.
Last week my son asked about the second poem, The Spirit of ‘76.
All but one of the yearbooks had burned in a fire that destroyed our home in the eighties, and I couldn’t locate my copy of the magazine. I turned to that glorious invention, the internet.
I didn’t find The Spirit of ‘76. Out of curiosity, I put the title of the first poem Teen had printed in the search engine…and sat on my bed at one in the morning amazed. A Love to Call My Own was alive in cyberspace.
It was used as an example of how to write a love poem, entered in poetry contests under other people’s names and posted on personal websites as the property of the owners. It was on a website for those who had been in love with cheaters.
Several men even claimed authorship for this love poem written by a teenage girl. It was posted on a prison blog site from the girlfriend of an inmate to her incarcerated beloved. I guess the inmate had one too many conjugal visitors.
There were those who considered themselves poetry aficionados. They took it apart, analyzed every line, gave it glowing praise. One of these pretentious posters said it was utterly passionate, that it enlightened his heart to croon. I wanted so badly to tell him I was fifteen when I wrote it. I had no idea what passion was.
I contacted one site owner because it had been entered in their poetry contest, and the person who stole it was gushingly appreciative of the compliments my poem received. That one irritated me.
When faced with the fact it had been copyrighted by Teen, the owner took it down.
Finally, on one site a woman told them they were all lying. She said it existed before the date people claimed to have written it, that it was from a magazine in the early seventies. She had found the clipping in her sister’s school book back then and memorized it word for word. She asked the real author to step forward.
I didn’t respond. It was futile to claim authorship of a forty year old poem. It would have been impossible to track them all down, to correct them all. No one would know who I was, and I was leery of giving my personal information out on sites I knew nothing about.
I was fifteen. I wrote a poem - before computers, before the internet, before websites. The magazine is gone, but the printed word is a powerful tool. It endures.
Forty years later, A Love to Call My Own
is still resonating with people. Since I am not credited as the author on any of the sites, I shall have to be anonymously proud.