Poetry is a little goat that followed me

Last day of National Poetry Month. I’ve been neglectful of it this year, especially considering how much I owe to it, how much my soul needs it.

I don’t exactly remember how I came to love poetry, how I decided to give it another try after it left me cold in school. Somehow I just wanted to like poetry. What I remember is going to the library and pulling down as many poetry books as my arms could carry, pretty much based on the spine of the book and a few names I could recognize. Then I’d sit down and filter through them, keeping the ten or twelve that caught my fancy and taking them home. Next visit I’d get ten or twelve more, including a few repeats. And so on.

And that’s how I came to know Cummings, Lorca, Oliver, Bukowski, Berry, Ciardi, Stevens, Simic, and a host of other new friends.

I knew I liked a poem by the feeling I had after I read it, not so much by what it said. One of my favorite poets is James Tate, precisely because he can leave me with a bemused smile after his poems even though I am not sure what I just read or what it meant. He lays out his playful absurdism in plain language and leaves me thinking “What the heck was that?!” but chuckling, gleefully disoriented. Don’t ask me to explain it to you. Just read.

It Happens Like This
by James Tate

I was outside St. Cecelia’s Rectory
smoking a cigarette when a goat appeared beside me.
It was mostly black and white, with a little reddish
brown here and there. When I started to walk away,
it followed. I was amused and delighted, but wondered
what the laws were on this kind of thing. There’s
a leash law for dogs, but what about goats? People
smiled at me and admired the goat. “It’s not my goat,”
I explained. “It’s the town’s goat. I’m just taking
my turn caring for it.” “I didn’t know we had a goat,”
one of them said. “I wonder when my turn is.” “Soon,”
I said. “Be patient. Your time is coming.” The goat
stayed by my side. It stopped when I stopped. It looked
up at me and I stared into its eyes. I felt he knew
everything essential about me. We walked on. A police-
man on his beat looked us over. “That’s a mighty
fine goat you got there,” he said, stopping to admire.
“It’s the town’s goat,” I said. “His family goes back
three-hundred years with us,” I said, “from the beginning.”
The officer leaned forward to touch him, then stopped
and looked up at me. “Mind if I pat him?” he asked.
“Touching this goat will change your life,” I said.
“It’s your decision.” He thought real hard for a minute,
and then stood up and said, “What’s his name?” “He’s
called the Prince of Peace,” I said. “God! This town
is like a fairy tale. Everywhere you turn there’s mystery
and wonder. And I’m just a child playing cops and robbers
forever. Please forgive me if I cry.” “We forgive you,
Officer,” I said. “And we understand why you, more than
anybody, should never touch the Prince.” The goat and
I walked on. It was getting dark and we were beginning
to wonder where we would spend the night.

Only poetry can do that — reach beyond the literalness of words and combine them to take you to an emotional place completely unexpected, even when you don’t understand.

Open Letter to Snap Fitness: Save the Cochlea!

My family has a membership here and I have made a frequent habit of working out at your gym in the morning. I have made you a big part of my daily routine and my blood pressure is out of the danger zone after a month. So I love going to your gym.

But my blood pressure is higher this morning because I was forced to spend my 45 minutes on your beloved taskmaster of a Cybex 750AT Cross_Trainer fighting off the insidious whining of a particular news commentary channel (doesn’t matter which, because they ALL make me crazy!) on three of the four TVs and the volume loud.

Can we treat TV Volume like second hand smoke? You can smoke, but don’t make me smoke with you. You can get your confirmation bias on with whatever flavor of talking heads you want to tell you what you already agree with, but please don’t make me listen to it because I might have to tear my cochlea out of my bloody ear canals if I have to listen to another hour of personal opinion presented as news again.

I noticed that all TVs have closed captioning turned on. Great! I also notice that each TV has a radio frequency upon which the TV audio can be tuned in. Great again! Isn’t that enough for the TV watchers? Could y’all maybe offer a few radio headphone sets for use and just mute the TV speakers? Or could you just make it a policy that TVs need to stay quiet? 24 Hour Fitness doesn’t make me listen to TV and you are much better than them, right? Right?

If it’s staff turning up the TVs, could you please stop? If it’s customers turning up the TVs could you please discourage it?

Thank you in advance for helping me maintain my sanity, keep my ears intact, and improve my fitness at your gym.

Mercy Clothed In Light

Jane Kenyon died of leukemia in 1995. But she left us her voice in this poem, written late in her life, as if to reassure us. I came across this poem the other night in bed and it made me appreciate the gift of my own life and the gift of poets like Kenyon who share their lives, and sometimes their deaths, with us.

Notes from the Other Side

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

Jane Kenyon, 1943-1995

April is National Poetry Month. The world needs more poetry.

This is what's for breakfast

I was quite proud of my biscuits. From scratch, light, fluffy, browned just so.
Gracie came into the kitchen as they were cooling and asked, with wide eyes, “What’s that?”
“Biscuits I made,” I beamed, “Want one?”
“I want toast.”
I sighed, deflated, “This is what’s for breakfast.”

Part of the Dad gig. Making kids eat stuff they don’t ask for. It’s a Mom and Dad standard phrase — “This is what’s for ((meal)). No I will not make you ((alternate , less healthy, food.))”

And though it is a mini battle before most meals, we are starting to reap the benefits of being Mean Parents over the years. Our kids all actually like broccoli, for instance. Aaron actually complained that last nigh’t stir fry didn’t have enough broccoli. The other night I had to tell Gracie that no, she could not “just have carrots” for dinner and she had to eat with the family.

We can corroborate the research that says that kids learn to like foods by repeated exposure. Put it in front of them, eat it yourself, and encourage them to eat it withough providing alternatives.

And say, “This is what’s for dinner.”

Tsunamis

Of all the people in human history who ever reached the age of 65, half are alive now.

Those of us in ministry, family advocacy, or any social service need to brace now for a demographic tsunami. Soon one of our presidents will get the career-limiting task of telling us what we’ve covered our ears trying not to hear for decades now — entitlements will have to be scaled back, retirement age pushed back, pension benefits cut. It’s like our politicians have been playing “Hot Potato” with a demographic timebomb. I’m afraid it will explode all over my daughter’s generation.

I’m worried for the folks who are approaching sixty right now. For sure, I am just as out of luck as they are in terms of traditional retirement, but I have more time to adjust to the change and accept the inevitable. I don’t expect retirement will exist, at least as we know it, in a decade. Of course, I would love to be wrong.

What I hope for as the silver lining out if all this is a renewal of the extended family as a social unit. I think it is a blessing that multiple generations may end up living together as a general practice again. 1950’s Family Value ideals aside, I believe something was lost with the rise of the Nuclear Family. But the transition will take some painful adjustment and require some preparation for those of us in ministry.

Rooting For Tiger

I am not even a casual fan of Golf as a sport, but I am rooting for Tiger Woods at the Masters because I am a big fan of redemption. Jesus died and rose for Tiger Woods too.

Wanna see Satan at work in the world? Listen to the chorus of voices that scoff at redemption and mercy. Satan wants us to believe that once we’ve fallen, we’re trash and always will be. Every apology Tiger offers will seem like insincere lip service to some. And it might be, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The automatic assumption that Tiger is lying and that his words are not heartfelt — that’s Satan’s work. The Father of Lies hates redemption.

Me, I’m a big fan. And the day after Easter, I hope Tiger gets a big break he does not deserve.

Wordnerdcore

Though not as fun as the word “titivating” which I learned from one of the judges on Dancing With The Stars this week, this word I came across is fun to say and, at least to me, kind of new: mumblecore

I am interested in how generes of certain media are dubbed “-core.” Is there anything that makes a genre a “-core” genre and not it’s own suffix-free genre name? Why is “screamo” not “screamcore,” when we have “nerdcore,” “noisecore,” and “hardcore?” “Screamo” sounds pretty “hardcore” to me, but mine are untrained ears I guess.

It’s one thing to collect fun new words, but another to discover emerging rules/methods upon which fun new words are coined. I’d love to know how “-cores” are determined.

Other fun “-cores” I’ve found and might be interesting to explore are:
nerdcore
mathcore
easycore (is this an oxymoron?)
happy hardcore (another oxymoron?)
businesscore
taqwacore
nardcore
crunkcore

I do know that “Happy Harcore” drives me up the wall as Girlzilla occasionally torments me with it. But it’d be nice to know how something gets its own name (like “Gabber”) vs. a “-core” name (why no “gabcore?”)

Maybe I will coin this inquiry “metacore” and myself “wordnerdcore.” I’ve got a new suffix and I am not afraid to use it…