Auld Lang Syne

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The merit in cleaning your office

Beyond the normal notions of cleanliness and organization comes a benefit I had not expected today:

FOUND in an old notebook from the Dodge Poetry Festival 2006: Sitting With the Dead, a poem I wrote for Laure-Anne Bosselaar. I have been very sad about the loss of this poem after I sent it to Laure-Anne in '06. I taught myself to decide it was lost for a reason. I wrote a response poem to it, hoping to honor the spirit of the original. I learned a lesson about backing up my work.

But today comes this little red notebook after so many years. 8 to be exact, my favorite number. I opened the notebook and there, on  page one, the poem I lost. So I share with you this poem in its original state plus the 2nd poem.

This is the original:

Sitting With the Dead
                    for Laure-Anne

In the village church,
the poet reads about Bruges,
how Yochkemke stepped on a mine
in Israel. The only way it was
him for sure was the intact arm
with numbers 743326, numbers
he was given as a baby,
his family tagged like cattle.

The poet does not write mine
except to claim him
as her friend, boy of bells
and marbles with green hearts.
She mentions his talent for whistling
through the hole in his tongue,
how he ran as fast as he could
and kissed her once for luck.

In the churchyard, after,
I sit with the dead, read poems
to them, boys and girls I never knew
living now beyond tipped granite
doors that open on a place
of untold numbers
of unnumbered souls, souls
who would not dare to name God.

And there it is: that which was lost has been found.

Here is the 2nd poem written last year (2013) to try and reconstruct or at least honor the original:

Lost: Sitting With the Dead
— again for Laure-Anne 

In the village chapel, the poet 
spoke about love for the dead 
how it increases, how like sadness 
for what's done in war, she told of all 
the lost loves she's kissed goodbye 
in train stations, in churchyards.

Now I'm leaning 
against the tombstone,
of someone I never knew —
dead tired from walking all day.

I write of Yochemke,
punched like paper by the Nazis.
write a poem of holes and loss,
read it aloud to those who
can no longer read.

My tongue dries
in the hot afternoon,
my pen runs out, stops
at the final word, shame.
Years later the poem is lost,
like Yochemke
who stepped on a mine in Israel.
Sitting With the Dead
will haunt me as the boy 
with the hole in his tongue.

The two poems seem to belong together. They are about loss and giving in to that loss as a way of survival. I like to imagine the poet and the boy reuniting years from now, and him running as fast as he can to show her his green-hearted marbles and his tongue whole again.

Why I will run for re-election to the school board

I could be selfish. I have a big writing project that has gotten delayed by my service to the school district where I live. I WANT to focus on the book I am doing and just work like mad to get it finished, edited, and sent out for publication. I WANT to do this and not much else.

I am frustrated. The past year and a half have been fraught with disasters, many caused by our school board's lack of vision, lack of basic concern for kids (though these concerns are stated over and over when the TV cameras are running), and a SERIOUS lack of know-how in education (we have a citizen-board made up of anyone who can get elected).  Yes, I am frustrated.

So I won't run again, right? That's what I had planned — until yesterday when 4 different people convinced me otherwise.

1. Have you considered that your not being on the board might undo what little progress has been made? Whoever might take your place might not care the way you do about EDUCATION issues rather than personal power.

2. I, for one, am glad we have a poet on our board; someone who thinks creatively and cares about kids's minds.

3. Oh you have to stay on the board; we count on you to speak up when things are wrong and not care about your own popularity or agenda.

4. What would we do without your willingness to say the hard things and to call out those who are out of line?

I do not believe in coincidences. I believe in messages from unlikely sources that speak sense or call me to act.  4 in one day? How can I ignore this?

So I shall run again for another three-year term. I hope the voters will keep me on. If they do not, well that is a message too. I'll say thanks for everything and go finish the book.

C'est la vie!