Monday, January 28, 2013

PTSW: Woodcutter's Song

Woodcutter's Song

I found this poem/song among the comments on storyteller Sheila Kay Adams' Facebook wall. The words are traditional and from the old country -- penned by the famous Mother Goose, they say. It seems a good way to warm the start of a January week. And good advice if you have a woodburning hearth or stove.

Oak logs will warm you well  
That are old and dry  
Logs of pine will sweetly smell   
But the sparks will fly 
Birchs long will burn too fast  
Chestnut scarce at all sir  
Hawthorn logs are good to last  
That are cut well in the fall sir 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Surely you will find  
There´s no compare 
with the hard wood logs  
That´s cut in the winter time 
Holly logs will burn like wax
You could burn them green  
Elm logs burn like smouldering flax  
With no flame to be seen  
Beech logs for winter time  
Yew logs as well sir  
Green elder logs it is a crime  
For any man to sell sir 

Surely you will find  
There´s no compare 
with the hard wood logs  
That´s cut in the winter time 
Pear logs and apple logs 
They will scent your room  
and cherry logs across the dogs  
They smell like flowers of broom  
But ash logs smooth and grey  
Buy them green or old, sir  
and buy up all that come your way 
They´re worth their weight in gold sir 
- Mother Goose

Monday, January 21, 2013

PTSW: The Gift Outright

The first Inauguration I remember watching was in 1961. I remember watching, on our black and white TV, the old poet, Robert Frost, blinded by the sunlight, giving up reading his prepared poem and reciting instead this:

The Gift Outright

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become. 

- Robert Frost

Here is what he had intended to read:


Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
And his be poetry’s old-fashioned praise
Who was the first to think of such a thing.
This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
Goes back to the beginning of the end
Of what had been for centuries the trend;
A turning point in modern history.
Colonial had been the thing to be
As long as the great issue was to see
What country’d be the one to dominate
By character, by tongue, by native trait,
The new world Christopher Columbus found.
The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
Elizabeth the First and England won.
Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood,
I mean the great four, Washington,
John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
So much they saw as consecrated seers
They must have seen ahead what not appears,
They would bring empires down about our ears
And by the example of our Declaration
Make everybody want to be a nation.
And this is no aristocratic joke
At the expense of negligible folk.
We see how seriously the races swarm
In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
They are our wards we think to some extent
For the time being and with their consent,
To teach them how Democracy is meant.
“New order of the ages” did they say?
If it looks none too orderly today,
‘Tis a confusion it was ours to start
So in it have to take courageous part.
No one of honest feeling would approve
A ruler who pretended not to love
A turbulence he had the better of.
Everyone knows the glory of the twain
Who gave America the aeroplane
To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
Glory is out of date in life and art.
Our venture in revolution and outlawry
Has justified itself in freedom’s story
Right down to now in glory upon glory.
Come fresh from an election like the last,
The greatest vote a people ever cast,
So close yet sure to be abided by,
It is no miracle our mood is high.
Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
Better than all the stalemate an’s and ifs.
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong,
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right devine
To rule first answerable to high design.
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.

-Robert Frost

And here is the poem for today - One Today - written and read by Richard Blanco for the Fifty-seventh Presidential Inauguration in American History. His language is efficient, evocative, electric. One today. One sun. One light. One ground. One wind. One sky. One moon. One Country.

One Today

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together. 

Another opportunity to witness

We have another opportunity to stand up for brotherhood today. It will be the first time I've missed it in about ten years. On this Monday in January I have made my way to Broad Street to join other Romans in declaring our dedication to the ideals proclaimed over 40 years ago by a young man named Martin King. There's little chance of shouted insults today. The bigots I watched here in 1965 won't show even their hooded faces today. Times have changed. But less blatant racism still persists, and it is still important to stand up and be counted occasionally. But this year I cannot bring myself to miss the inauguration. So -- if you aren't home watching the inauguration, join Alvin Jackson and the folks near the South Broad bridge at 11:30. And sing a little louder to make up for my absence. I'll do my best to be there again in 2014.

Here's the info on this year's march.

My 2007 post about the MLK March.

Walking for Peace and Brotherhood 2006

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Joy, revisited.

Four years ago I wrote of the joy I felt at the inauguration of Barack Obama as our President.

This year my joy is just as great. Re-elected by over 4 million votes and a landslide of electoral votes the President has a mandate for his balanced approach to economic recovery and deficit reduction. He has proposed sensible and strong gun safety measures that will reduce gun violence while protecting Second Amendment rights. His immigration policies have been largely adopted by Marco Rubio and other Republicans. The Tea-Partiers have folded their efforts to hold our economy hostage with another debt-limit crisis. The health reforms of the first term are safe from repeal. The President and his proposals have the strong support of the American people according to the polls.

God bless our President and God bless the United States of America.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ovulator or Ovulated? (Or Which Came First?)

If first ever was, or ever will be,
the Lord may know but, Lord, not me.
The illimitable past and the coming mist
seem more Escher stairs than ordered list.
by Terrell Shaw

This bit of rhyme was written in response to this week's Poetry Stretch prompt: Firsts

Visit The Miss Rhumpius Effect to read more responses.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Home Stretch

For a while I exercised my poetic skills frequently at the prompting of Trisha at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Most Mondays she issues a Poetry Stretch. The current Stretch challenge is to deal with home or habitat. So here is my self-conscious homecoming to the Stretch.

The Home Stretch

I haven't done my stretches, as I should.  
My verbs are wretched, stiff as wood.
My nouns are flabby with adjective fat,
wishy and washy as this and that,
gushy and gabby, fallen, flat. 

In the new year now, I highly resolve --
fervently vow -- baskets, buckets, of
rollicking, panting, working verbs,
stomping, splashing, dancing blurbs
to astound, aggrieve, prompt, perturb.

by Terrell Shaw