What I See
Updated: Apr 17
(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
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.
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.