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  • Writer's pictureandrew jeter

What I See

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

(from the NaPoWriMo prompt: write a poem that deals with the poems, poets, and other people who inspired you to write poems.) [This was not easy for me because I didn't really want to write it. I did, however, want to produce something and I was having a hell of a day focusing. So, I decided to pick the three most important poems/poets to me as a young reader and start from there. Out of nowhere, I realized that I couldn't tell the story of those three without telling the story of my adventures in Centre Pompidou way back in the '80s. This is not a good poem, but it is something I wrote, so I'm posting it here. I will add the poems and paintings referenced in my poem.]

Guernica - Pablo Picasso (1937)

I’ve told this story before

about going to Centre Pompidou

because for a time they had

Guernica and I knew I just

had to see.

As all museums, it was a maze

just more brightly coloured perhaps

and I wandered past a Klien all in blue

and I did not get it, I did not get it

at all.

All blue like Picasso, but so very much

not like Picasso at all. Not like Frost

or Young or Berry are like Picasso

with their walls and zócalo and still water where the reader rests.

When I see something I do not have

to understand, but I like to be able

to understand if I put some effort

in and move my mind like a pen

across the blankness.

Yes, my moment with Klien’s Blue

Monochrome was like being by a wall I was 

unaware of or on a street I had never

walked, but Guernica made sense

because I could see.

The blue painting to the right is Blue Monochrome by Yves Klein (1961). The three poems referenced in my poem are Robert Frost's Mending Wall; Al Young's Ponce de Leon: A Morning Walk; and Wendell Berry's The Peace of Wild Things. I love all three of these poems because they each helped me to see that poetry was a form of storytelling and that one should never aspire to lose one's reader.

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: ‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’ We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of out-door game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: ‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him, But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather He said it for himself. I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father's saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Ponce de León: A Morning Walk

by Al Young

You too if you work hard enough

can end up being the name of a street

in a drowsy little Indian town

a day’s drive from Mexico City

where orphans like bold Joselito

hustle in the taxi burro streets,

where cosmetic fragrances mingle

with scents of ripe & overripe fruits

& vegetables, where the smell of breakfast

& dinner are almost the same.

The natural odor of dung & bodysweat

rises from the zócalo into a sky, semi-

industrialized, housing the spirits of

blue señoritas with sun soaking into

their rain-washed skirts dried dustier

& wrinklier than red or green pepper.

While a crazy rooster’s crowing late

a brown baby delights in orange & yellow

balloons floating up like laughter

to tenement windows where a whole family

of older kids wave happy soap wands

that yield fat bubbles part air part

water part light that pop in the faces

of prickly straw behatted gents

rambling by below, ragged & alive—

One morning’s moment in this ageless

stone thoroughfare named after just one

dead Spaniard who wanted to live forever.

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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