Friday, June 06, 2008

My Poetry - or - from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

There was a time in my life when I tried my hand at poetry. And not just "love" poems either, although being single and yearning for female companionship probably facilitated my creativity! Below are a score of my poems. Do you like any of them? Why or why not?


WHAT IS MAN?

A creature worthy of salvation
or a pestilent abomination.

A seeker of eternal light
or a denizen of furtive night.

One who teaches truth and beauty
or one who fails in every duty.

A pow'r for goodness: willing, strong
or who weakly yields to every wrong.

The above poem sees things as Black or White. The truth is probably closer to this thought by Edward Hollis Koch.


There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.

There are still some areas that are completely black and white (about which I am dogmatic); but the rest is gray. This reminds me of the disagreement over Nature versus Nurture. Who I am isn't the result of one OR the other. My genes and my upbringing BOTH contribute to who I am.

There is a third component of who I am. The Scriptures teach me that I am literally a child of God. I arrived here in mortality with that divine attribute.

There is also a fourth component. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can accomplish much more right now than would ever be possible with just my native abilities, and it is only through the Atonement that I may someday achieve my full potential. And now you have the answer to the question posed by the title of the poem.


LONGSHOREMEN
(My apologies to the Marines.)

From the halls of Building eighty-two,
To the doors of Building one;
We will fight our "union" battles,
'till we've pissed off everyone.

We'll abuse, insult, and irritate.
We will make your job a hell.
We will show you why we're really here.
It's the one thing we do well.

We will take your jobs and sit on them,
And then give them back to you;
'cause we only want to cause delay
in everything we do.

Did you think you had a budget?
Ol' _____'s got the dough.
So we'll do your job on weekends.
We're expensive, don't you know?

And forget your scope requirements,
Since we have a "better" way.
You should know we're never listening
To anything you say.

We're irrational and arrogant;
But we've got the power here.
So just go along with what we want,
If you don't want' real fear.

There was a time when a lot of animosity existed between the Maintenance and Engineering departments where I worked. I wrote this at the height of the conflict, and would have been fired if I hadn't kept it secret.


ODE TO NATURE

Ere the setting moon draws nigh,
Shadow mountains rising high,
Silent silver clouds above,
Memories of a night of love.

Fair of face to look upon;
Pale, hazy eastern dawn,
Yet so many hours away,
Bids you here beside me stay.

Snare drum, flute, and piccolo,
Deep percussion, tremolo,
Heartbeat rhythms in the night,
Starlight witnesses in white.

Where the woodwinds, trumpets too,
Play so softly just for you.
And the air with sound is hung,
Violins of catgut strung.

There in purple melodies;
Swaying branches, windy trees,
Tumbling flower petals fall.
Perfumed air hangs over all.

Lair of lion, muffled roar,
Rest now from the evening gore.
Quiet in each hidden place,
Here, so close, your sleeping face.

Dare the dangers of my arms.
Yield to me your virgin charms.
I the land, the rocks and trees;
You the river, clouds and breeze.

Rare communion, bitter-sweet;
Everlasting, ending meet.
Changing, changeless mutual kiss.
Principles opposing: Bliss.

I think Ode To Nature is one of my best poems. Even though I've disguised it somewhat, you can still tell what was on my mind!


LIVING QUESTIONS

I look at a dead leaf,
I hear an insect's call.
But what know leaves of grief?
Do bugs feel love at all?

I see a flying tern,
A rattler with its mate.
Do birds with passion burn?
And what know snakes of hate?

What of the pink nosed hare,
And swimming, scaly fish?
Do bunnies ever care?
For what do fishes wish?

My understanding of the Creation, as explained in the Scriptures and in the Temple, is that the animals and even the plants were created spiritually before coming to live on this mortal earth. The Scriptures also suggest that at some point, in time or in eternity, the animals will be able to talk and will display a much higher form of consciousness than at present. I wonder about the destiny of the animals. We humans will all be resurrected. Demographers estimate there have been something like 70 billion people on the earth. That sounds like a lot - especially if they were all here at the same time. It seems like it might be VERY crowded.

Do a thought experiment. What would it be like if all the mosquitoes that have every lived were to resurrect? The whole earth might be covered in a layer of mosquitoes a thousand feet thick. You do the math. And there are tens of thousands of other creepy crawlies that would need somewhere to live. I just hope I have a room with VERY GOOD SCREENS!!!


KISSING IS BEST

I like to swim.
It makes me feel free,
And helps keep me trim.

I play tennis too,
And chase all the balls.
The winner is you.

Hunting is fun
With a good camera.
When I shoot they still run.

Running the mile
In under four minutes
Take me quite a while.

Growing small plants
Is nice in clay pots.
Except for the ants.

I've flown a few times,
But not since I crashed.
And I'm about out of rhymes.

Reading books is my habit.
I want to be wise,
and know more than a rabbit.

Church work, kids and wife:
These aren't my hobbies,
But mostly my life.

Lots of hobbies, it's true,
I'm interested in.
But my favorite is you.

And kissing is best.
You knew I would say it -
I'm a man; that's the test.

My "love" poems often included other subjects. I have many interests. I just hope I haven't left what matters most at the mercy of what matters least.


DO THEY KNOW WHAT THEY SEE?

What is wrong? What is right?
Do birds sing in the night?
Do they sing in the day?
And do dogs really play?

Or is all their loud fun,
As they bark and they run,
Just a tumbling chore,
An instinct, nothing more?

And the birds, when they fly,
Do they notice the sky?
Flying from tree to tree,
Do they know what they see?

The poem above is a lot like Living Questions. I've been fascinated all my life that something as tiny as a flea has the mental and physical ability to find food and discriminate between good food and bad food, to flee from danger, to seek a mate and to reproduce, to eat and digest and eliminate and breathe and grow, and with an immune system, eyes, and all kinds of sensory and motor apparatus. Absolutely amazing. You say all this infinite complexity came about by accident and in the face of entropy? Riigghhhttt...


DAYBREAK

A single flashing line
Half obscured by the dark branch
of a silent pine,
was written by a meteorite
across the twinkling sky.

The stars, whose glory
had filled the night
with all their ageless beauty,
dimmed in awe
at the dawn's first grey light.

In the chill air
a breeze sprang up,
to rustle down the quiet meadow,
and whisper among
the waiting treetops.

A line of wispy clouds
emerged and slowly grew pink
against the deepening blueness,
as fingers of smoke arose
from a distant campfire.

A lone bluejay,
flying high above the earth,
was caught in the first sunbeam,
and plunged screaming
into the hidden forest.

A bright bead
appeared above the
green-enshrouded distant hills,
and cast its bloody hue
across the awakening valley.

The dew arose
from its grassy bed,
and hovered in misty hesitation,
before changing wraithlike
into invisibility.

A cricket took up its chant,
and others joined in
as the day grew hot.
But the river
ran on unseeing.

You've heard that old question: If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? I would like to believe there is meaning to life. Well, actually, I DO believe there is meaning to life. It is just hard, sometimes, to go on believing. And I, like that river, am usually utterly clueless about what is going on around me.


MY QUESTIONS
1 Jun 72

Thinking again
Of all the many ways
You fill the void in me
And brighten all my days.

Just simple thoughts
And yet they satisfy
The spirit's greatest needs
To know the reasons why.

why is there death?
No need to be afraid,
For you're forever mine,
The temple promise made!

And what of birth?
The precious secret shown
In little shining eyes,
So God's love may be known.

And in-between?
Just try to better live,
So that when life is through,
May God our sins forgive.

This is enough:
To know the gentle touch
Your flesh-and-spirit gives.
Ah, love! It seems too much!

I seem to have done a lot of soul-searching when I was younger. My testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the covenants I've made, are some of my most precious possessions. My faith is an anchor when I am adrift and a rudder when I am trying to make some headway. Without it I would be lost. I am aware that there are many people out there who are "without God in the world" who nevertheless seem to be happy and who lead normal, emotionally and morally healthy, productive lives. That is and has always been something of a mystery to me.


LITTLE BABY GIRL

A little baby girl is born,
Just as the father fears,
His hopes for sons remain forlorn,
Must wait 'til future years.

She nestles in her mother's arms,
Pink mouth on one white breast;
Her tiny body safe and warm,
Eyes closed in peaceful rest.

This joy they feel; far better now
Than any former dream,
Does not decrease the father's wish
To have a football team.

The mother, too, wants baby boys,
Somebody to call, 'mister'.
To write on walls, and scatter toys,
And defend his older sister.

Along with the Gospel, my Family is the center of my universe. Yes, we are completely disfunctional. Yes, there is a lot of misunderstanding. Yes, there is not a lot of affection. But there is no other place I'd rather be!


LIVING LOVING
30 May 72

Icy blast on sculptured snowdrift.
When will buds their bright green leaves lift?
In the shining morning sun gift:
Winter's bane.

To the south the wind returning,
From its journeys homeward yearning;
On the barn a slowly turning
Weathervane

Through the clouds the bright blue sky gapes.
Wind chased 'cross the sky the clouds traipse,
Changing to the myriad new shapes
Which they feign.

From the gray sky gentle showers,
Falling off and on for hours:
Heaven watering the flowers.
Oh! The rain.

Brown grass blades in countless hundreds,
Turning green here where it thunders,
Even where the horse oft wanders:
Down the lane.

Oh! We've met together nightly,
And you've held me, oh, so tightly!
Yellow moonlight shining brightly.
See it wane.

How the pale morning light grows,
And the dimming stars must all know,
What the fallen grass will long show:
Where we've lain.

Then, within, thy babe lies striving,
From the Lord its spirit coming,
And life's cycle; living, loving,
Starts again.

I think the "love" poem above is one of my best. Like the others, it puts romance into context with many other things.


WHEN YOU ARE OLD AND GRAY
by Tom Lehrer

Since I still appreciate you,
Let's find love while we may,
Because I know I'll hate you
When you are old and gray.
So say you love me here and now
I'll make the most of that.
Say you love and trust me
For I know that you'll disgust me
When you're old and getting fat.
An awful debility, a lessened utility
A loss of mobility is a strong possibility.
In all probability I'll lose my virility
And you your fertility and desirability
And this liability of total sterility
Will lead to hostility
and a sense of futility.
So let's act with agility
while we still have the facility
For we'll soon reach senility
and lose the ability.
Your teeth will start to go dear.
Your waist will start to spread.
In twenty years or so, dear,
I'll wish that you were dead.
I'll never love you then at all
The way I do today.
So please remember, when I leave in December,
I told you so in May.

Susan showed me Mr. Lehrer's poem when we were courting. Below is my response.


I WOULDN'T TRADE ETERNITY
March 1972

In solemn, tender moments,
Or in playful, laughing jest,
I long for you and love you, dear,
And come home, here, to rest.

Where else might I find someone
Who fills my every need,
Whose needs I too can all fulfill,
In word and thought and deed?

Your hair has grown grey dear;
Your cheeks are lined with care.
But your eyes still sparkle from within
And show the spirit there.

Your waist was once so tiny,
And your hands were soft to hold,
But I always long to touch you,
And I'm glad we're growing old.

Because we've been together
These many long years through;
And I wouldn't trade eternity
For my lifetime spent with you.

The ending of the poem above is a sort of play on words, because I believe marriage can be forever. The truth, then, is that if two people live their lives together well, they can spend eternity together. Nobody ever has to trade one for the other.


ESSAY
April 1972

This time is not the same as last time or the
times before, when others came and set my soul
to rhymes. This time with you I find that
funny little things have tied my soul and bind
my heart with beating wings. The way you
tremble in my arms when I kiss your soft
and perfumed skin - I'm hurled into an abyss
from which I fear there may be no escape
for me. What fear these wings allay, though falling
I would be. This hesitance prolonged:
the soaring spirit waits so God's laws
are not wronged, though strong temptation baits.
"Remember who we are," you said to me in prayer.
I'll never go too far: you can be sure I care.
For how could one who loved somebody as I do
abuse the one so loved? Be selfish and untrue?
Love making is a gift reserved for gods alone;
a pleasure to uplift the soul to heaven's throne.
So when I pull away, too soon though it may seem,
I'm just trying to say
let's not destroy our dream.

Our culture (the devil) wants us to believe Chastity is outmoded, and if you watch almost any movie made in the last 100 years or so, you'll think "everyone is doing it". That's exactly what Satan wants us to believe. But the new morality is just the old immorality. How sweet it is to do the right things for the right reasons. And maybe we should watch a lot less TV while we're at it too.


JUST HOLDING HANDS
19 Mar 72

I'd like to tell you what I feel
But when I try to do
I find myself just sitting here
and holding hands with you

I've held hands many times before
With more than just a few
But, Susan, I would rather be
Here holding hands with you

You're quiet while I talk a lot
But still you feel it too
So maybe I am saying more
Just holding hands with you

My wife has always been a wonderful listener. Or maybe I talk so much she can't get a word in edgewise. I have to keep opening my mouth so I can change feet.


ANSWERING MACHINE MESSAGE

It's possible that no one's here,
And that's why no one answered.
Or maybe no one wants to talk
Right now we can't be bothered.
Perhaps when we hear who you are
We might pick up the phone.
So leave a message short and sweet.
Speak in a pleasing tone.
But if you call and then hang up,
Then call and call again,
And haven't got a thing to say,
To tell us who, what, when...
You nerdy geek - just get a life,
And don't call back 'till then!

Needless to say, my wife recorded a new answering machine message as soon as she found out I'd put this one on it.


DING DONG DITCH

The family phantom
Pays a visit.
We thought it was a lark

To make these cookies
Just for you,
And bring them after dark.

We hope you'll never
Guess who did it.
It seems like lots of fun.

To leave these cookies,
Six times two,
Ring your bell and run.

The Ding Dong Ditch was something our family did when our kids were young anough to enjoy doing it.


PREDATORS (AYSO Cheer)

It's time again for soccer wars -
To kick the ball as the crowd roars.
We're going to beat those girls of yours,
'Cause we're the fighting Predators!

We'll turn their shins to open sores,
And rub some dirt into their pores.
We're going to beat those girls of yours,
'Cause we're the fighting Predators!

Our kids played soccer when they were little. Their games were a lot of fun. I never took it as seriously as some parents did. I wrote the official "yell" for our team "The Predators" one year. These little girls were just as physical and competitive at that age as the boys.


PINK CAKE
For Leah Cottam

My daughter, Leah, baked a cake.
When she did it, she was sick.

I asked her, "How long did it take?"
She said, "I stirred it with a stick."

I asked her how she made it, then.
"Forty minutes," is what she said.

So I asked how long she baked it in
the oven; "350" came from her head.

"How hot, then, was the oven, dear?"
"From a cake mix, in a bowl,"

The answer came both loud and clear -
This began to take its toll!

"Why don't you answer what I ask?"
I asked, just slightly mad.

"Did you like it?" (Her smile was like a mask.)
And I knew that I'd been had.

"It was very good," I said at length.
She said, "an hour is all it took."

Please, I thought, just give me strength!
"Well, you really know how to cook."

My conversations with my daughter Leah were often a lot like the one that inspired the poem above. She doesn't talk to me any more. Problem solved.


PETE ROSE

Playing baseball was his game;
Earning millions; gaining fame.
Then he placed bets on his team,
Even though it didn't seem

the

Right thing - no one was to blame.
Overnight he lost his name.
Such a waste that now his dream
Ends in nightmares. Hear him scream!

My heart goes out to very talented people who don't handle it well. Pete Rose will be associated with crooked gambling all his life. Michael Jackson especially has my sympathy. He never had a childhood. He was a property. He was handled by everyone around him. No wonder he grew up strange and twisted. I could mention lots of other celebrities who have "blown it". Britney Spears leaps to mind. And so on. How sad. How very sad. I'm very grateful I'm neither rich nor famous.


WAIT FOR SPRING

Overhead the sky is crying
teardrops splashing at my feet.
Fall doth weep at summer's dying.
Flying south the goose wings beat.

Winter cold and silence coming.
New green grass on all the hills,
Growing though the wind is numbing,
Dancing in the breeze that chills.

Long months waiting for the spring time -
Plant seeds lying in the earth;
All God's creatures in their beds climb,
Until spring sun brings re-birth.

I was an electrician for twenty years. One afternoon I was doing a "crawl job" in a dark and insufferably hot office building attic and this poem just sprang into my head. I tore the top off a box of wire to write it down. This "inspiration" happened quite often at night, and I had a pen and a pad of paper next to my bed for those moments. I haven't written any poetry in a very long time. I wonder why?


WHO I AM
9 Sep 76

Who am I here, thoughtful, sitting?
I'm a potter at my wheel.
And I star-gaze in the darkness
Through my telescope of steel.

I like daisies, ferns, and green things
In the meadows where I kneel.
April in my greenhouse! Cacti
blooming make my senses reel!

Flying in the sky excites me;
Though one crash my joy did steal.
Mountain trails beckon, invite me;
Wildness all my soul to heal.

I delight in hard and soft woods,
Making splinters fly with zeal,
Wiping stain and brushing varnish
Makes me like a craftsman feel.

Megawatts of power, useful -
I'll build if my hopes congeal,
Nuclear, not coal-fired turbines;
Rulers bargain, nations deal.

Best of all, our newborn baby
Kicks me with his tiny heel,
Smiling through unblinking wide eyes
As he takes his liquid meal.

I have written many poems
With design: some Heart to seal,
But this was the first about Me
And the things I think are real.

I've felt a lot of nostalgia as I've written this. I've had a very full life. In some areas I've "moved on". I still have the big telescope, but I never use it. There are still some cacti and succulents in the greenhouse, but the majority of the pots are now stacked up on the concrete under one of the benches. I never made it into the nuclear power industry. The potter's wheel is in the attic, dismantled. The kiln hasn't been used in twenty years. My kids have mostly moved away and have their own lives.

And now it is time to end this post and "move on".

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