Just as singing in the shower does not make me an opera singer, putting words on paper does not make me a poet. This is a reality I accept.
I am a scribbler of thoughts. And although I take great pains to shape my words in ways that capture what I am thinking and feeling, that recreate what it is I have seen – a striking sunset or the struggles of winter changing into spring – the truth is, I have limited abilities. I accept this as well.
I am but a chronicler of time’s minutiae. My words are a lens into a day’s happenings. I am no more than this; I am no less. In my capacity as chronicler, I am important and unimportant, consequential and inconsequential. I accept this, too.
But to be a poet! Were I a poet, I would write as Theodore Roethke:
Many arrivals make us live: the tree becoming
Green, a bird tipping the topmost bough,
A seed pushing itself beyond itself,
The mole making its way through darkest ground,
The worm, intrepid scholar of the soil —
Do these analogies perplex? A sky with clouds,
The motion of the moon, and waves at play,
A sea-wind pausing in a summer tree.
What does what it should do needs nothing more.
The body moves, though slowly, toward desire.
We come to something without knowing why.
Roethke, Theodore. “The Manifestation.” Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1975.
Friday evening I walked the county road. Although the air was cold, the sun shone brilliantly in the sky. The fields to my east and west, bereft of snow, looked dark and wet. Ditches snaking across the cropland and edging the road remained ice-covered. Exiting an uncultivated field, a pair of wild turkeys dashed for cover in a neighboring woodlot. Canada geese sounded their alarm as I passed.
At St. Pauli Lutheran Church, where the ditch becomes precipitously deep and the culvert is buttressed by concrete bridgework, meltwater ran in narrow streams through openings in the ice. How many days would it be, I wondered, before the flowing water overwhelmed the ice? How long — minutes, hours, days — before spring finally broke free?
Theodore Roethke wrote of this –
I shift on my rock, and I think:
Of the first trembling of a Michigan brook in April,
Over a lip of stone, the tiny rivulet;
And that wrist-thick cascade tumbling down a cleft rock,
Its spray holding a double rain-bow in early morning,
Small enough to be taken in, embraced, by two arms, —
Or the Tittebawasee, in the time between winter and spring,
When the ice melts along the edges in the early afternoon.
And the midchannel begins cracking and heaving from the pressure
The ice pulling high against the iron-bound spiles,
Gleaming, freezing hard again, creaking at midnight —
I long for the blast of dynamite,
The sudden sucking roar as the culvert loosens its debris of branches
Welter of tin cans, pails, old bird nests, a child’s shoe riding a log,
As the piled ice breaks away from the battered spiles,
And the whole river begins to move forward, its bridges shaking.
Roethke, Theodore. “Meditation at Oyster River.” Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1975.
Such words! Such poetry! Roethke wrote, “We come to something without knowing why.”
And so I write:
Friday evening I walked the county road. Although the air was cold, the sun shone brilliantly in the sky. The fields to my east and west, bereft of snow, looked dark and wet….