Poetry Assignment

I gave my daughter a ride to work today.  The snow had blanked the highest tops of the foothills near Golden and a couple of hundred feet down there was no snow, only the shadows in the deepest cracks on the foothills and of the playful but heavily water laden clouds as they played hide and seek with the sun in their race across the sky.  Magical you might say.  There were lots of colors, the sweetest greens of the fresh spring grass, the dark blue greens of the wet evergreens on the north facing slopes, the whitest white of the new fallen snow on the highest hill tops and the remains of a dusting of snow between the peaks and where the lower altitude no longer had any snow. Days like this make me so happy to live here. Where is the camera when I need it?

Anyway, we started discussing a project for one of her English classes that she has been working on this semester.  She complained that James Wright had nothing she would borrow, which I guess was one of the questions on the project. She read an example of one of Mr. Wright’s poems.  It was a very touching poem about the poet’s father, working hard, coming home silently and described how the poet imagined his father’s life and the ghost of his now dead father continuing to do the same things his father had done almost all of his life. 

It zapped me right back to a day when my family was sitting around the table eating supper, it was a quiet moment, which looking back, in itself was probably rare as there were four children at the time plus my parents.  My father had a look in his eyes of someone who had known love, sorrow, pain, loss, struggles, joy and triumph. He truly looked so appreciative to be with his family enjoying a nice dinner as he ate that it brought tears to my eyes then and even now as I write about it.

My dauaghter continued that she did not have a clue what she would “borrow” from the first poem.  I said “You could probably borrow the attitude if nothing else. You just don’t get the poem. Maybe you could say that at this time you would not borrow anything, but it might be something you could revisit when you are older.”   

My daughter continued to describe some of the poet’s works she was comparing.  She read a poem by Mary Oliver about sleeping in the forest. True, it was an eloquently written poem, but it did not touch me nearly as much as the first poem.  First, I can not imaging sleeping in the forest without a minimum of $500.00 worth of REI gear, including a light weight, fully sealed tent complete with foot print tarp and weather cover tarp, backpack, lantern and a massive dose of “Off” or some other mosquito repellent.  Furthermore even if I might live in a forest, I certainly would not sleep outside alone. I almost got the shivers listening to the poem imaging the insects, crickets, frogs, snakes, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and mountain lions or bears that might also be there.

“Now, that is a poem.” she said when she finished reading it.  I said, “Well, I guess it just depends on where you are in your life”.  The first poem took me back to a time and I described the family dinner incident above, nearly crying as I tried to explain the emotion I felt.  She simply remarked, “Well, I never had that. In fact, none of my generation has had that.” 

I am pretty sure some of her generation did have more family dinner experiences than she did, but it made me even more emotional at how much my dad looked like he knew and understood just how good we had it, and how much I appreciated what he did for us. It made me sad for all of the working moms and family’s whose fathers had left their mothers to be the nurturer and provider alone.  It made me very sad for the society where it is ok for this to be accepted as normal.    

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