LOCAL VIEW –Day Of Pure Sun–

 

How like a trickster is the April sun,
When for days it hides in purple gloom
Where a raw fog, complete with sleet, can stun
Even optimists towards discussing doom
And death, but then that same sun bounces up
On a day with no clouds. I’m made surly
And walk with a snarl to my coffee cup,
For that slap-happy sun’s suddenly early
In rising, beaming my bed so I squint.
And what’s that I hear? Summer birds singing
In the dawn? Robins are back. Shake the lint
From my brains. Prankster April is bringing
A day without clouds. A day of pure sun.
A day to make dour men remember the One.

As an old poet I’ve learned that the world of poetry is, at the very least, on a tangent point between the physical and the spiritual, and at times is farther off in an air-headed place that has so little to do with the physical that bill-collectors, and sometimes your friends and your parents and your spouse and your children may be irked by your failure to face “reality”.

What such well-meaning advisors fail to see is their “reality” is going to quit on them. We must face our worldly responsibilities, but a day will come when this world will fade. In fact it fades every day, when you go to bed exhausted. Even if you stay up to all hours doing your taxes, being very, very responsible in a worldly way, when you are utterly exhausted the world becomes utterly ungrateful, for it vanishes. But another “reality” is more faithful. Pragmatists disdain the other world as a mere “dream”.

I would like to encourage young poets by telling them poetry is not a mere “dream”. You young poets have bungled into a battle which is occurring on a sphere the worldly simply can’t admit exists. Yet it does exist, and you do do battle, even if it looks like you are just sitting and nibbling an eraser.

Want proof? Consider Beethoven. Music, to physical pragmatists, is a physical reality involving sound-waves and the physical ability to hear. But Beethoven became deaf. In terms of physical pragmatism he lost all physical reasons to produce sound-waves. Yet he not only persevered with his art, but produced music most musicians confess is astounding.  This is not possible unless a non-physical reality exists.

You young poets may have been tricked into poetry because it seemed easier to daydream than face the sweat of a Real Job, but at this point I have to inform you of sad news: Worldly responsibility must be faced, even if you are a genius. As amazing as Beethoven was, he still had to come up with the rent.

Now, before you young poets charge off into a rant about how unfair it is that Beethoven, who gave so much, had to scrimp to pay for shelter, (and how, by extension, it is unfair that you too have to pay rent), be aware Beethoven had his physical side. He loved a young widow he couldn’t marry because he was a commoner, and she would lose her children if she married beneath her class. Therefore much of the passion and tragedy in Beethoven’s music may have been born of frustration.

As long as we have any entanglements with the physical world there will be consequences. The only way to avoid dirty dishes is to give up eating altogether. Therefore young poets should expect interruptions. Be cheerful when asked to take out the trash. But do not be tricked into thinking the physical world is the only world.

LOCAL VIEW –New Chicks–

April in New Hampshire can make a man sardonic. It tends to be a cruel flirt, like a beautiful woman toying with an ugly and old man. A bit battered by winter, we do our best to make ready for spring, but mercy never comes until May.

This year I went out in the cold and skun my knuckles fixing the drive belt of the rototiller, planning to plant the peas, and cold rain promptly made the soil a swamp too miry to till, and so wet it would rot the seed. Not satisfied with that, April then changed the rain to falling slush not even the children at my Childcare much enjoy.

What is a poor old man to do? Well, to start, he should write a sonnet:

This old farm needs some chicks. Not for profit,
For I’ll be damned if the eggs that we get
Will cost less than a store’s. In fact, my wit
Jokes we may get no eggs; it’s a good bet
We will only feed the foxes. Be realistic,
But still we need chicks, for their sweet peeping
Somehow makes an old grouch optimistic.
It sure beats twiddling thumbs. Though sleeping
Through summer has its appeal, and though fluff
Too soon grows feathers, and what was once cute
Grows gawky, and the reek of a pullet
Is a stink few like, such points are all moot.
I’ll get hammer and nails, bite the bullet,
And go out in the rain to build a hutch,
For the peeping of chicks puts hoping in touch.

I must say that, on a cold wet day in April, it makes a difference to children to have some new chicks to watch, under the cherry light of an infrared lamp.

LOCAL VIEW –Window to the Wet–

The beat and drench of the cold April wet
Strands me by my window, frowning distaste.
When young I’d push myself out and forget
All comfort, not for “fears-must-be-faced”,
But with my eyes filled by mad ambition.

With handsaw and hammer and reused, rusty nails
I would change the world, and no lack of sun
Or cold rain could stop me, but bluster quails
After fifty years of seeing I don’t
Change the world, but the world changes me.

The mud remains as muddy; mankind won’t
Change the climate; through my window I see
The same wet twigs holding crystal-ball drops.
The change is the same and the change never stops.

LOCAL VIEW –Vanished Trust–

As a “Child Care Professional” it is my duty to see to the safety of the small. And a mere 36 days ago, on March 1st,  the ice on a small local lake was a safe playground.

It is at this point, when the ice is four feet thick and you can drive a truck over it, that I abruptly call it unsafe, and the children are no longer allowed to romp on the smooth playground. I base my decision on a glance at the calendar. I refuse to even discuss my decree, though I will write a sonnet about my judgement a month later:

Just a month ago the ice was solid,
But at the start of March my trust gets thin
Before the ice does. Kids still want to skid
On the slick, but I forbid, with no grin
On my old face. I’m so dead serious
That kids, for once, obey. Something in my
Frosty eye warns them. A mysterious
Danger is dawning; they don’t dare ask, “Why?”
They just stay off the ice. In thirty days
The ice is gone. How can such a change be?
How can the trusted just go? This dismays,
If you’re stuck in your ways, but if you’re free
Your trust can adjust. It isn’t treason
When trust needs to face a lovely new season.

Thirty-five days later all that thick ice, that you could drive a truck over, is reduced to this:

It should be obvious you cannot drive a truck on the above lake, nor safely see a child walk on the water. The question then becomes: “On what exact day, between March 1 and April 6, does the ice become unsafe?”

I have done considerable research, risking my own life, and have plunged through rotten ice as far back as age 13, in 1966, (in chest deep water) and, on a pond shaded by hemlocks, as recently as yesterday (in ankle deep water). But such risk is my own, and the children entrusted to me should not be exposed to such risk, and therefore I expose them to a generalization, “Thou shalt not go out on the ice after March 1.”

Oh my Lord! The grief you can get for a generalization!  It may well be that the ice was safe after March first. And, if it was safe, I was “depriving” the children of time rollicking upon a delightful playground. If this is true, I hereby confess my sin. Perhaps I worry too much. But, if the children had played out on the ice a day too long, one might have fallen through the ice and died, yet, because I didn’t know the exact day, they may have missed  several extra days delighting on the ice.

If I was paid as “Climate Scientists” are paid, I might be be better equipped. All sorts of sensors would be deployed on the local lake. We would have a far better idea of the exact day the ice became unsafe to walk upon. It would only cost taxpayers X millions.

But my wisdom? My wisdom is free. I’ll talk your ear off, if you let me. I’ll only tax your patience. You can trust me. The wisdom of old men is like the ice: Free, but not forever.