A poem (says me) about diminished expectations

Gibran.jpgI recently finished another project at work in which my grand intentions and clever plans came face to face with reality. As expected, reality won.

The project is still strong, but wow, what it could have been!

Which brings me to this week’s poem, it’s by Lebanese writer and thinker Kahlil Gibran, best known for “The Prophet,” which is likely on your bookshelf, a gift  from  a well-meaning friend or relative, and just as likely unread.

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Back to the classics: ‘Gone With the Wind’ as a civics lesson

gone.jpgThe duly elected president of our country the other day asked, about the U.S. Civil War, “If you think about it, why? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

I think I speak for all Americans with brains and for thinking people everywhere when I ask: What the complete fuck?

Assuming he can read, he might find an answer (do himself no harm, either) by doing what I just did: I read “Gone With the Wind,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Margaret Mitchell about not just the Civil War, but its aftermath. I chose this book to satisfy the Classic by a Woman Writer category in this year’s Classics Challenge.

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A poem for a rainy day (and the kid in all of us)

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I’m told it’s going to rain and be cold all weekend. Forecasts like that usually bring A.A. Milne’s poem “The Engineer” to mind.

I first came across this poem years ago while reading “Now We Are Six” to my kids and I remember being immediately struck by it. Most of the poems in the book are cute, but often dated, and need explanation. Sometimes it takes a few stanzas to get the meter right. But this poem was different. It was so cute, I read it again, immediately. Then again because what Milne was doing finally dawned on me. Then I read it again to give my kids the full effect. Then they asked me to stop reading it.

So, what’s so intriguing?

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A poem for spring on this Easter Sunday

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: I’m  no poetry expert, but religious poetry leaves me cold. It’s either so intellectual as to be impregnable (Gerard Manley Hopkins or G.K. Chesterton) or sappy and sentimental to the point of doggerel (just about everyone else).

So today, on this beautiful spring day when Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead, I offer this poem about the season that’s only now starting to truly flex its muscles.

Though I’m not convinced the poem says anything other than what is on its surface (nor does it need to), I feel the poet, A.R. Ammons, in calling it “Resurrections” is making reference to Easter, which comes around every spring. Or maybe he’s commemorating the more pedestrian returning to life a fine spring day brings. Or maybe he’s just explaining to his wife why he’s not going to clear the winter’s debris from the flower beds.

However you interpret it, enjoy. And happy resurrections, whatever type they may be.

Resurrections

In spring
a bluster
busting up

against a
wall will
lift last

year’s leaves
higher than
trees did.

A poet’s call to arms on the 100 anniversary of U.S. entering WWI

I was married in November of 1995 and my wife and I went went to England for our honeymoon.

While in London, we came across the remnants—flowers at war memorials, paper poppies left singly and in piles—of Armistice Day celebrations. I was surprised, and impressed, by the number of somber ceremonies honoring the dead. It wasn’t until later that I realized how many British lives were lost in that war, and that the people at ceremonies were often mourning not just some hypothetical soldier “who gave his life for our freedom” but very real brothers, fathers, grandfathers and friends. It sparked an interest in World War I and, while I’m no expert by any means, I find myself drawn to the war and the era, constantly stunned by the casual slaughter of so many.

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‘The Shack’ is a slam dunk in the Crap Bucket, isn’t it?

shack.jpgSeveral years ago I tried to read Wm. Paul Young’s bizarre religious tract “The Shack” because, well, everyone was doing it. I got through about a third of it, realized it was crap and returned it to the friend who had loaned it to me saying something noncommittal and politic like, “I just couldn’t get into it.”

Fast forward to last month when someone in my new book club chose “The Shack” as our first book. I nearly dropped out. But being a good team member (something that is almost never recognized, much less rewarded anymore) and I found myself irritatedly skimming this book I had written off years ago.

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A poem on the anniversary of the death of my father

Twenty years ago today my dad died. He was 59.

We had a troubled relationship. I wasn’t the jock son he wanted as his namesake and I punished him whatever way I could when, my freshman year in college, he left my mom. My bitterness often caused friction between me and my brothers and sisters, but by the time he died, all that was behind us. He was remarried, my mom was remarried, I was married and I truly mourned him. In some ways, I still do. Time, it seems, really does march on and actions that once seemed monumentally selfish and destructive become understandable, maybe even forgivable.

Anyhoo.

Poets seem to write a lot about their parents, and not always in favorable ways. To mark this occasion, I pulled out a book I love, “Fathers: A Collection of Poems” edited by David Ray and Judy Ray, to see whether anything there might capture my feelings for my father. I discovered many fragments that spoke to me.

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