Thursday, December 02, 2004

I read a lot.

What I do for a living is fairly technical and I spend a fair amount of time looking at numbers and drawing fine lines on a computer screen. Work comes in intensive spurts with times of nothing and then everything. It's probably a good type of work for a slightly compulsive slightly obsessive personality like me, but it fosters a kind of tunnel vision that only other obsessives will understand.

A tunnel is a difficult place to create from within and I have, over the years, developed resources to break my thinking patterns out of the hole I wind up in so often when I work on a project. I think about something else for a while and then go back to the project with fresh eyes and mind. Since there is rarely enough time to let things flow naturally, I have learned to force them.

I am an outdoor type of guy, my clothes very often smell like a campfire, but not often enough. I am a good shot with a rifle. I hike in difficult places. So what do I do to free my mind? I do what a man who tries to consider himself a strong, rugged, individualist must poetry.

I have learned to make Google, the Internet search engine, walk and talk for me. I have a talent for Boolean algebra, the language of Google, and can say "I want you to find me something about 'this' not 'that' in such a way as to find poetry about what ever subject is on my mind at the moment. The best poets are emotional wrecks and, no matter how rough I am feeling, I can read certain writers and think, "Boy, things is tough, right now but they are dang sure better than what this guy was going through." It is the literate equivalent of "The Young and Restless", but the morality play is often more relevant in poetry than soap opera, wringing more emotion per word out of the reader than should be allowed at times. A favorite of mine is Robert Frost. By some accounts he was a difficult person to spend much time around in person, and I have to limit my time around him now to short bursts of intent reading or he will overwhelm my defenses and I will get angry or hurt or something and not just engage in thoughtful reflection of his words. Such is the power of great poets.

Oddly, even those quasi poets, more prone to doggerel than epic, hit the right note from time to time, as I think you will see if you've made it this far.

An excerpt from Frost:

“OH, let’s go up the hill and scare ourselves,
“If it scares you, what will it do to us?”

“Scare you. But if you shrink from being scared,
What would you say to war if it should come?
That’s what for reasons I should like to know—
If you can comfort me by any answer.”

“Oh, but war’s not for children—it’s for men.”

My dears, my dears, you thought that—we all thought it.
So your mistake was ours. Haven’t you heard, though,
About the ships where war has found them out
At sea, about the towns where war has come
Through opening clouds at night with droning speed
Further o’erhead than all but stars and angels,—
And children in the ships and in the towns?
Haven’t you heard what we have lived to learn?
Nothing so new—something we had forgotten:

War is for everyone, for children too.
I wasn’t going to tell you and I mustn’t.

Out here in the woods we like to gather friends for a bonfire in the field. Our last one on Thanksgiving night had the added benefit of a near full moon. We were safe in the field having had rain recently and a fire ring surrounded by large rocks. Robert Frost speaks of a metaphorical fire that is meant to scare, but it gets away and bridges the gap from imagined to actual physical threat. I have run across no better metaphor for our country's situation today. here is the entire poem:

robert frost

And now the writers of doggerel:


Ev'rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
'Cause summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy

Hey! Think the time is right for a palace revolution
'Cauce where I live the game to play is compromise solution

Hey! Said my name is called disturbance
I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the king, I'll rail at all his servants

Well, what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band
There's no place for a street fighting man

and then...

Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin'
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost its way

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away


The floods is threat'ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I'm gonna fade away

All right, without using a search engine yourselves, tell me who wrote those two pieces of great literature? The first few will be recognized herein, a great honor!..but then this is actually too easy, eh?



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