When I was a boy, and the glory of the Lord
burned blue and bright as day,
when angels swam in the plasma of my eyes,
swam in clear pools like children,
unsandaled, joyful in their bellies,
when I was a young man, and the glory of the Lord
snapped above me like the sails of a ship,
and angels buzzed like gnats above my head,
hummed sweet wax down the whorls of my ears
to keep me in a straight course,
when I was a man, and the glory of the Lord
paled like cold fire west-fallen behind cloud,
when angels blew from my shoulder and face
the veil of ash that fell,
when I slept,
when I’d have doubted,
when they lifted my lids to visions,
when I grew old, and died, and the glory of the Lord
spread wide and gold as leaves,
Angels bore me lightly away,
and I became a boy, blue and bright as day.
The poem “Biography” was first published in BYU Studies, Vol. 50, Number 2, 2011.
…angels swam in the plasma of my eyes: As a boy, I could see bizarre ghost-like squiggles floating through the ether of space around my head. They had the transparent look of simple-celled organisms under a microscope. I believed they were spirits, a belief borne from an early Mormon teaching that the “spirit world is all around us,” rather than existing in a separate and distinct sphere. My ability to see these spiritual floaters was one of many proofs I had a special gift. I’m more than a little disappointed to learn that this “eye-floater” phenomena is explained by light passing through the jelly-like vitreous humor and casting shadow blobs on our retinas. But what do the so-called scientists know? Maybe I do have a gift! I see dead people.
…wax . . . . straight course: This allusion is to Odysseus’s solution to the perilous temptations of sirens. He counseled his crewmen to plug their ears with wax so they wouldn’t be tempted to veer off their course. How fervently I prayed not only for chaste behavior, but chaste thoughts as well.