Let Us Go Then, You and I

“Let us go then, you and I, with the evening spread out against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table…”

“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?  It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!”

“I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

Many children may have grown up with their fathers singing them a favorite song, or maybe his language was gardening or fixing the car.  My father’s expression has always been words.  Words of T.S Elliot, words of Shakespeare.  He walked about the house proclaiming the hearts of poets as if the world would stop spinning if he stopped reciting.  I thought nothing of it until friends would come over and say, “WHAT is he talking about?  Etherized upon a table? Huh?”

I grew to love the language arts (and memorize all those lines he used to say!) and he continued to foster that love as my sister and I grew up.  When I was 7 or 8,  he wanted to read to me one of his favorite books.  I would curl up in bed, he would sit by my side and hold me captive as I listened to the struggles of Buck, the sled dog.  The mere idea of an Alaskan wilderness was beyond anything I could have fathomed.  I grew to love Buck and story time.  After that introduction to Jack London, I went on to read “White Fang” on my own and have been a devourer of books ever since.

When I entered Jr High, I had no idea that Robert Frost was going to invite me to clean the pasture spring:

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan’t be gone long. — You come too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan’t be gone long. — You come too.

Or that Carl Sandburg would bewitch me with a simple picture of fog, which was so familiar to the coastal landscape I lived in:

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

From that point on, I was a changed person.  I was the fog, floating about, waiting to move in on all that was alluring to me. Poetry captivated me.  Robert Frost wanted ME to join him.  I was addicted to free verse.  To onomatopoeia.  To odes.  To alliteration.  The power of Haiku had risen from the page and enveloped me into the cherry blossoms of another country.  Mark Strand moved to make things whole;  Bukowski told me like it was; Neruda shared how to furiously love; Whitman proclaimed his barbaric YAWP and Elliot heard the mermaids singing each to each.  Anne talked of sorrow, Emily saw Hope as a thing with feathers and Thoreau threw his pen across a table in the woods and it all made perfect sense.

poetry is motion graceful

as a fawn

gentle as a teardrop

strong like the eye

finding peace in a crowded room…

a poem is pure energy

horizontally contained

between the mind

of the poet and the ear of the reader

if it does not sing discard the ear

for poetry is song

if it does not delight discard

the heart for poetry is joy

if it does not inform then close

off the brain for it is dead

if it cannot heed the insistent message

that life is precious

which is all we poets

wrapped in our loneliness

are trying to say

~Nikki Giovanni

The link to the artist’s photograph used above:



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