On insight

Mar. 13th, 2002 08:43 pm
gurdonark: (abstract butterfly)
A high school nativity scene;
middle school shepherds,
eighth grade angels;
wise men with asbestos beards,
mary and joseph, from the senior class.

Standing on church steps, surrounding
a plastic baby jesus,
for the benefit of passersby;
because grace comes packaged from
time to time
in felt robes over tennis shoes.

People come and stand in the cold,
in sub-freezing temperatures,
where the scene is illumined
on church steps
by two hundred watt bulbs,
accompanied by Handel.

The experience is in the story told;
sometimes the nativity story,
sometimes the story of admiration
for lost youth,
sometimes in the personal acquaintance
of the viewer with the viewed.

One is a mother, one wishes to be a lover,
two teach magi in high school.
Each takes a tale home,
though each tale is different.

Yet, the storytellers use no words,
pose, as if frozen, in freezing weather,
and the stories that the hearers take,
are stories the viewers bring to the tale.

War Poets

Mar. 4th, 2002 09:49 pm
gurdonark: (abstract butterfly)
Tonight the news was filled with new fighting in
Afghanistan. I thought on my drive home about how difficult it would be to be among those on the front lines. When I was in
college, I became quite taken with Wilfrid Owen, the WW I
poet who died after his poetry had evolved from the valor and
honor genre into a more realistic interpretation of what
happens in battle. I never was comfortable with the
knock on him that W.B. Yeats made, to the effect that poetry
about the suffering of war was not "real" poetry. To me,
"real poetry" is poetry which absorbs and transmutes
even the grimmest situation. I've come to particularly
appreciate the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon. He, too, started the
war with one set of ideals, and ended with another. But
unlike Owen, he survived the war. He lived to see fascism
rear its head; he lived to understand why another war became necessary, if not at all appealing. I recently read R.F. Delderfeld's novel about a WWI English vet who is "saved" by becoming a rural public (we would say private) school headmaster. One of the characters in that book observes that the battle against fascism was much easier to take--less folderol about nobility of conflict, more a recognition that this was a fight for a way of life. I hate to see any war, any time, but
this war is one in which we have no illusions--we fight for a
way of living which is the only way we can imagine. All recent movies on war, from Saving Private Ryan onward, recognize that
the battlefield is a living hell, not a walking John Wayne movie.
It is without illusions we send our troops to fight; the WTC showed us what our alternatives are. We won't need war poets to tell us that war is a horror. We just need to support our
troops in the field. This will not occur by stifling free speech--we cannot become what we are fighting against. It will occur because each one of us realizes that each person working for us overseas is enduring greater or lesser hells for the sake of a way of living we can't imagine leaving behind. We're not yet six months from the horror of 9/11, and yet we've all moved back to a kind of normalcy. But I can't forget that people are fighting for that normalcy. I wish they didn't have to. But they do. Here it's not attending war movies, or arguing on Sunday news debate programs, or putting aggressive bumper stickers on our cars, that will make the difference. It's just recognizing that our diverse beliefs and lifestyles are part of who we are, and that our common call is to treat each other with worth and dignity, even if we
must, against our nature, take up arms to defend the right to do so. I don't have any profound thoughts about this war, or military strategy, or what next, or the future. I just know
we have folks in the field, and I hope that casualties are as light as can possibly be.

I was one of the very brief generation never called upon to even register for a draft.

Rest

Mar. 1st, 2002 06:50 am
gurdonark: (abstract butterfly)
I've noticed that even when my work load is not stressful,
I still really look forward to the weekend. I remember when I was younger, and had to work longer hours.
A weekend movie, a Sunday morning drive (Prairie Home companion, little rural prairie backroads past decaying churches and rustic fallen small barns) was like the ultimate luxury. Now, I push myself a little less hard,
but the weekend seems just as welcome. My wife's going to San Antonio to visit some friends in town from CA, so I've got to entertain myself. I'll do some Mandatory Continuing Legal Education on the 'net, and fly a new kite I bought for 3 dollars at Dollar General. It's also time to do some writing. I don't ever get writer's block, because you have to have the feeling that you can write talented stuff before you worry that what you write won't be. I know my poetry is very talent-shy, so I don't have writer's block, I merely have good old procrastinator's project-starting block. But once I begin, it will flow from me like the picture of water rushing in a drainage ditch I sent off to someone recently. Perhaps Heaven is a 20 dollar bill in pocket, a kite in hand, twenty five pages of bad poetry on screen, and a good night's sleep.

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