Category : Uncategorized
Category : Uncategorized
Editor’s Note: I’m sure I’m one of millions who stood last night in the dark and watched the full moon slowly fall into eclipse, and then eversoslowly return to its silvery brightness.
When I see such things in the heavens, I wonder how they affected my great-great-great ancestors, how they might have sat around a fire watching that ancient face grow shadowed, then reappear. What stories did they tell one another about it?
I expect it was more wonderful than the ones we tell ourselves today — how this or that angle or orbit or calendar is at work, and when it happened last, and will repeat. So obsessed we are with measuring and defining!
Sometimes I search a long time to find a poem to share with you. And some days, like today, there seem so many that I want to unfurl them like banners across your evening sky.
However many times the moon has been eclipsed, such an event will inevitably repeat, whether or not we are here to see it. And those uncountable number of stars — some, I’m told, that are really no longer “alive,” but burnt out long, long ago. How strange it is to contemplate such things.
I am overwhelmed these days by the abundance of the natural world: the dancing cloud of gnats I can see from my door, the ever-sprouting blades of grasses, the billions of leaves that will soon fall from the trees, the molecules of love floating through the universe.
So here is a poem about abundance, and the unending cycle of life in the universe.
A scent of ripeness from over a wall.
And come to leave the routine road
And look for what had made me stall,
There sure enough was an apple tree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free,
Now breathed as light as a lady’s fan.
For there had been an apple fall
As complete as the apple had given man.
The ground was one circle of solid red.
May something go always unharvested!
May much stay out of our stated plan,
Apples or something forgotten and left,
So smelling their sweetness would be no theft.
Editor’s Note: Fingers strolling along the spines of poetry books on my over-full shelves, I found the book I was seeking right away, and next to it a slim, blue volume — pulled out just to see what it was, since I didn’t recognize it immediately.
So today I bring you a poem called “Instead,” from a slim volume of the same title by David Lunde, who retired to the Oregon coast after a prolific life of publishing, teaching, writing — instead of a poem by the poet I’d first intended (who shall remain nameless for now, since I’ll certainly use one of those later).
Do you collect random books of poetry from workshops and bookstores and writers’ conferences, as I do, and tuck them away only partly read, to stand uprightly waiting on the shelf for a change-of-season day when they whisper to you, “choose me instead?”
I hope so. So much joy comes from such happy meetings! May your days be bright and delicious.
Instead of writing this poem
I could have poisoned cabbage worms
in the garden, assassinated aphids
with a handy, multipurpose agent
invented by the Germans in World War II;
I could have attended the Democratic picnic,
barbecued my mustache
and played Frisbee with the old farts;
I could have explained once again
to my neighbor that it’s not the Kiwanis
itself — I’m sure they’re a fine bunch
of leisure suits — I’m just not
a joiner; I could have strolled
downtown for The New York Times
in my bathrobe and slippers
not giving a good goddamn
what the churchgoers thought
and spent all Sunday reading it;
but instead, here I am again
wasting my time on you.
1. What did you do this weekend “instead?”
2. Is there something you have explained in answer to others that you seem to have to answer again and again?
3. Write about a time when you wrote a poem “instead” of doing something else.
Editor’s Note: Oh, the smell of newly sharpened pencils! Favorite pens, and a special backpack! List of materials needed, and a few extras “for fun!” It’s Back-to-School month, and many of my friends are headed back as classroom teachers, from my sister at Castle Rock Montessori, to others at high school and colleges across the country.
The weather, too, is changing a bit. Last week it was over 100 degrees here, and today it’s a cloudy low-70’s. While I’m not yet ready to get out my winter clothes, I am remembering an old favorite poem that many teachers print out for their students.
Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours
Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out quiz
worth 50 percent
Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose
Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?
Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place
And you weren’t here
© Tom Wayman
How would you answer this question? Phrase answers both as “Nothing” and “Everything” responses. You need not assume the questioner is a student. Have fun making up your answers — be outrageous, sarcastic, witty, direct and inventive.
Editor’s Note: I’ve spent most of this day considering the reasons for this holiday. It does far more than mark the traditional end of summer. Yes, there is a kind of melancholy over the sunset on Labor Day, at least I always felt that when I was in my public school years.
In my grandmother’s day, it also meant the official end of permission to wear white shoes!
Although much has changed, some things persist. For me, one of those persistent truths is the necessity of remembering why we celebrate this Day in the first place.
I don’t usually assign “homework” with the POTW, but I urge everyone to look up a bit of history on Labor Day, and even delve into the allusions in this week’s poem. I think you’ll not only enjoy it, but you may learn something to share with friends.
The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians
Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This arm piece with its overseam to the band
Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze
At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes —
The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out
Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.
A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once
He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers —
Like Hart Crane’s Bedlamite, “shrill shirt ballooning.”
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked
Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord. Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans
Invented by mill-owners by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: Mac Gregor,
Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,
The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter,
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:
George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit
And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,
The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.
From The Want Bone, c 1990