Saturday, March 31, 2012
Tide, Time and Poetry
Like all humans, I contain several tablespoons of salt. It is a ratio I share with my weight in seawater because both are made of things found on earth. Earth, in turn, was assembled by electric and gravitational attractions that various compounds in outer space exerted upon one another. Throughout these compilations there remain attachments to forces shifting among the stars. Like sound aimed at a microphone-element they stir the oceans and make them speak. We hear it on the shore when currents collide into waves. We hear it when wind scrapes treetops. We hear it in our brains when we are very sleepy.
No wait, that's the fridge or the toilet running. Ok, I'm back, now it's our brains. Here is a little poem about that:
The ocean is always
In you and in me,
Where gravity dreams,
Fictitious forces swirl,
Marmoreal seams pitch
What is too far
And ancient to see
Can at least be
Let's see what rolls out of the waves, shall we?
Certainly technology-heavy genres have their distances and drawbacks. Heavy Metal and Rap always sounded like rhythmic tantrums to me --a parent shouting its wit's short end, a child stomping off, the heart beating over one's foetal head. When the beat stops I expect to hear: NOW GO TO YOUR ROOM!! or It's a Girl, a Boy! a bottle opening or door slamming. But that too is part of the poetry of our time, the rhythm of waves. We ignore it at our peril. I've never been an avid e.e. cummings fan either, but discovering "i sing of Olaf" at a crucial time impelled me to leave no authority unexamined and saved my life.
Next wave: In 1968, I drove a hop truck in the late summer harvest. When possible, I'd stop for lunch at Flora's place. She had a poster there of a Robert Frost quote, "Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I'll forgive Thy great big one on me." Flora was a retired school teacher who knew poetry and I was a hick who needed to know more. Reciprocity, especially in forgiveness, opens poetry and working hops without it was just hot and hard. I kept learning and prospered.
I could go on anecdotally, for a long time, with stories of how poetry redirected me in positive ways, but these two successive waves suffice to show me I'm thinking about it. Thought is very random enterprise, like the vast universe that sets it up and sends sunlight to fuel it. It generates the safeguard of common sense that makes us quit beaches that have rappers and hop trucks washing up on them. It also furnishes an ocean in our heads, portable oceans, which cuts down driving considerably. I am reminded of the old Masefield poem, which I learned over a half-century ago but can still recite from memory:
"I must go down to the sea again, to the Coney Island sand,
And all I ask is a traffic jam backed up to Disneyland..."
John Masefield, as you know, was a writer for Mad Magazine who became the British Poet-Laureate.
I am still a hick.