Archive for category: Poetry

America #2 (The Murder of Rest)

1.

All good things must come to an end,
and so, I murdered rest.
You read that right.
Read it again.
And for the sake of clarity,
at the expense of redundancy,
let me put it another way:
I strung up sabbath,
fastened a few millstones to its feet
(the neck seemed overly-dramatic),
and pitched it into the sea.

2.

This is hyperbole.
No, maybe it’s not.

3.

It’s the perfect crime if you consider:
the murder of constructed concept
produces no body. At least,
not straight-away.
There is a body in the end–
your own to be exact–
but a man’s gotta go somehow,
whether by the cigarettes,
the black-lunged cancer,
or over-striving,
the green-souled striving.

Come to think of it,
cigarettes might just
be the product
of over-striving.
Who knows.
I don’t.

4.

Anyhow, the death of
a middle-class over-striver
goes barely noticed by investigators.
They don’t come knocking with a warrant,
but send the youthful eulogizers
who say things like,
“he was such a hard-working man,” or
“he had a real protestant work ethic.”
They mourn the loss of the salt of the earth,
ascribe virtue to accomplishment,
to the ability to take time
and turn it into loaves and fishes.

5.

Is this hyperbole?
I don’t know.
Maybe it’s not.

6.

As a child, rest was second-nature,
maybe even first nature.
There were twelve hours of stillness
in any given Tuesday.
I slept, sure, but even waking
watched the frogs blinking
milky filmed eye-lids
from just above the surface
of an Ozark mud puddle.

I watched and watched.

I closed my eyes,
breeze against blush,
and gape-mouthed, gulped
the wind on which
scissor-tailed flycatchers rode.
I sat in the hammock of mother’s apron,
head against beating heart
as the thunderstorm lumbered
quaking across the Texas plains.

At one point or another,
I slept in all these places–
on the river bank by the mud-puddle,
in the gentle winds of a Texas field,
in my mother’s apron hammock.

6.

It was with great deliberation
and malice afore-thought, then,
that I murdered rest.
You ask the murderous motive,
and this is not the proper question.

Haven’t we always wanted to be
limitless man, greater than even
God who rested on the seventh day?
Haven’t we believed
that we could shine somehow brighter
than even the morning star?

Yes, questions of motive are obvious.
It is the question of resurrection
that takes greater imagination.

*Photo by Flick, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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For Titus

For Titus:

I was da,
when the milk teeth first
broke ivory white
through new pink
and grew fast
from the floor up.

I was da,
a single syllable
like mild,
like love,
like peace.

I was da-da,
when the uppers
came screaming
through mouth’s roof,
when you learned
of night terrors
and sickness.

I was da-da
the complex,
the healer,
the big-armed
hero.

Today I am dad,
a one syllable wonder
yet again,
delta-alpha-delta,
the difference,
the beginning,
always the difference.

I am dad,
and in that
there is sorrow
and hope.
Sorrow that
by language
I have evolved beyond
single syllables,
and hope that
I might always
be the difference,
yes–the beginning of
all difference.

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America #1 (Thoughts from a Rocking Chair)

1.

It is pleasant to talk of
work, rest, personal spirituality,
of the tragedy of old Smith’s farmland
untouched by tractors for
near a generation,
or of morning prayers
and the flight of the gold finches.

2.

Here, in this pipe dream
of the American free,

I saw the children running
through water spouting sidewalks,
dancing the hokey-pokey
to radio-Disney,
learning the joys
of play-pretend wars,
of vigilant violence between
marines and jihadi militants,
or cowboys and Indians,
whichever;

I saw We The People
dancing to death
yet again, and buying news
like movies, like politics,
like bubblegum and Coca-Cola.

I saw this all from the
porch rocker at old Smith’s place,
from the farmland
untouched by tractors for
near a generation.

3.

I could sit here, in this rocker
overlooking fallow fields,
prayer beads in hand,
and dream pretty poems
of a people’s judgment.

I could watch the gold finches
come, and leave, and come again,
and call this contemplation.

I could name it Walden,
or Eden, or the Buffalo River Valley.

These, too, are
luxurious pastimes.

4.

Other-world children
marshal language like missiles
and speak of loosing fathers
and goats with the same
dry eyes;

I wonder whether they hope
to work their father’s fallow fields,
to consider again the morning prayer
of peace, to hear again
the gold-finch’s Spring song.

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On the Poetry of the Workplace (A Guest Post by Glynn Young)

In April, I began exploring the reason for poetry. I’ve invited a few guests to enter the conversation in hopes that we might find a collective answer to the question, “why poetry?” (Read all “why poetry?” guest posts, here.) Today, I’ve asked Glynn Young to stop in and share his answer. Glynn is leading some wonderful conversations about poetry in the workplace at places like Tweetspeak Poetry, The High Calling, and his own blog. In addition, he’s recently released Poetry at Work, a book well worth any working stiff’s time.

Without further adieu, please welcome Glynn Young.

*****

I was educated in public schools, and it was in public schools that I was first introduced to poetry. Elementary education was a basic overview of all subjects, with a focus on whatever subject or theme our teachers were interested in at the moment. Middle school and high school had a focus on fiction; since this was the South, the Really Deep South, William Faulkner reigned supreme even years after his death. So we studied fiction, with an occasional cursory nod in the direction of poetry and essays.

The seeds for my love of poetry were planted in high school; and the love of poetry began in a discovery that I loved British literature. William Shakespeare. Charles Dickens. Thomas Hardy. John Milton. George Eliot.

And then T.S. Eliot. T.S. Eliot was the key that unlocked the poetry door. I read “The Hollow Men,” and something changed forever.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!…

In college, I started in pre-med but abandoned it (too much chemistry) for journalism. And literature. I took the English classes the English majors took – two semesters of British literature, from Beowulf and Piers Plowman to (again) T.S. Eliot. Along the way, my classes had a significant immersion in the Romantics – Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, and Byron (I survived tests consisting of nothing more than single lines or fragments of lines of poems – and had to identify the poet and the poem) (consider going through 30 or 40 lines like that in under an hour) (#IHatedPoetry).

A few years later, I found myself working as a speechwriter. A friend suggested I read three poets for a broad understanding of how language–and spoken language–could really work. He recommended Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, and no surprise, T.S. Eliot. I read the collected poems of all three. I became a serious speechwriter.

From that point on, poetry became a regular part of what I read. As a result, I wrote better speeches. My perspective changed. I began to look at problems differently. I often found myself running against the corporate herd (and trampled more than once). But that different perspective helped rescue two different companies, both of which believed they had hit a reputational dead end. Poetry shaped and framed that different perspective. Poetry and faith together were that different perspective.

About three years ago, I was sitting in yet another recurring weekly meeting, listening to the recurring weekly conversation, my attention drifting to something more interesting, when I caught something unexpected. I was hearing something in the repetition and in the conversation. And what I was hearing was poetry. Not necessarily good poetry, but poetry nonetheless. I looked around to see if others had noticed, but they had the same weekly recurring faces.

I began to pay closer attention to all of the forms of corporate work life–the interview, the performance review, the PowerPoint presentation, the reorganization and downsizing, the vision statement, the cubicle and other work spaces, unemployment, and even retirement. Wherever I looked, I found poetry.

Some well known business writers, like David Whyte and Clare Morgan, have long advocated for what poetry can bring to business. I love their books, but they see poetry as something from the outside of work brought inside and applied. I was startled to realize that poetry didn’t have to be brought in from the outside; it was, and is, inherent in the work we do.

Poetry is already there. To realize it, to grasp it, is to understand something powerful about who we are and what we do with a considerable part of lives.

We don’t work. We write poetry.

Glynn Young is the author of two novels and the recently published non-fiction book Poetry at Work. He blogs at Faith, Fiction, Friends, and is an editor at Tweetspeak Poetry.

*photo by takomabibalot, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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On Swimming Holes

An Arkansas summer is made for exploration. An Arkansas summer is made for boys.

There are tangy homegrown tomatoes to be picked, to be eaten straight from the hand; the Arkansas Traveler being my favorite variety. There are lightning bugs to imagine as fairies, to catch and keep in grandmother’s mason jars. There is popsicle relief to summer heat, the melting strawberry legs which run rivers down a shirtless chest.

These are the glories that might interrupt the more digital life of the modern boy if we train our children in the way they should go. Chief among these glories is one: the Steel Creek swimming hole at the Buffalo River.

The turn down Highway 103 is nothing short of a walk through the professor’s wardrobe into the magic of Narnia. By Independence Day, the farmers have bailed their hay, have left well-manicured fields under the watch of the Ozark mountains, the most gentle giants of our country. The boys look out the window, say, “isn’t it beautiful daddy?”

We wind through the valleys and climb up a ridge, fall down into the heart of the Buffalo National River. There, the bluffs rise tall from the water, and trees reach from the tops of those bluffs.

Isaac says, “inconceivable,” an homage to the movie The Princess Bride.

“What?” I ask.

He laughs, says, “those look like the Cliffs of Insanity!”

We choose a campsite near a path that leads down to the river, unpack a picnic lunch, and eat in double-gulps. There is a swimming hole to explore, and this is the prize of an Arkansas’ summer.

 

Down the Path (Instruction to Sons)

Down the path,
brothers together
walk through time,
past a digital today
and into a yesteryear
of RC Cola, of Moon Pies
and Jolt’n Joe.

“Hold Titus’ hands, son;
the path is muddy, mossy;
be careful; don’t slip.”

Into the hole,
under the keep
of Buffalo bluffs,
down to the depths,
where feet cannot touch,
there is a pearl for boys
with imagination
and breath enough
to find it.

Ike Jude
Ian up
Ian down

Titus Ian

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