Oct. 14, 2008
The Poet Goes to Indiana
I'll tell you a half-dozen things
that happened to me
when I went that far west to teach.
You tell me if it was worth it.
I lived in the country
with my dog
part of the bargain of coming.
And there was a pond
with fish from, I think, China.
I felt them sometimes against my feet.
Also, they crept out of the pond, along its edges,
to eat the grass.
I'm not lying.
And I saw coyotes,
two of them, at dawn, running over the seemingly
And once a deer, but a buck, thick-necked, leaped
into the road just-oh, I mean just, in front of my car
and we both made it home safe.
And once the blacksmith came to care for the four horses,
or the three horses that belonged to the owner of the house,
and I bargained with him, if I could catch the fourth,
he, too, would have hooves trimmed
for the Indiana winter,
and apples did it,
and a rope over the neck did it,
so I won something wonderful;
and there was, one morning,
flying, oh pale angel, into
the hay loft of a barn,
I see it still;
and there was once, oh wonderful,
a new horse in the pasture,
a tall, slim being-a neighbor was keeping her there
and she put her face against my face,
put her muzzle, her nostrils, soft as violets,
against my mouth and my nose, and breathed me,
to see who I was,
a long quiet minute-minutes
then she stamped feet and whisked tail
and danced deliciously into the grass away, and came back.
She was saying, so plainly, that I was good, or good enough.
Such a fine time I had teaching in Indiana.
It's the birthday of the short-story writer Katherine Mansfield, (books by this author) born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1888. She had affairs with men and women, she traveled deep into the countryside and lived with the indigenous people of New Zealand, and she published stories under a variety of pseudonyms, and some of those stories were scandalous. She is best known as the author of The Garden Party (1922). Mansfield wrote a letter to an editor asking for money, and she said, "I have a rapacious appetite for everything and principles as light as my purse."
It's the birthday of poet E. E. Cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings), (books by this author) born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1894. He is the author of Tulips and Chimneys (1923), 95 Poems (1958), and many more books of poetry.
It's the birthday of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, born in Denison, Texas, in 1890. His mother was a pacifist, and when he decided to go to West Point for college, she broke down in tears. He loved being in the military and training troops. As a general, he liked to smoke cigarettes and make small talk with soldiers, and he slept in the trenches with the privates. When he traveled by jeep near enemy lines, he preferred to drive the jeep himself.
It's the birthday of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, born in London in 1644. He was the son of an admiral, and even after he became a Quaker, he continued to wear splendid clothes and to carry his sword to Friends meetings.
It's the birthday of the poet and essayist Katha Pollitt, (books by this author) born in New York City in 1949, author of The Antarctic Traveler (1982), Subject to Debate (2001), and Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories (2007). She grew up in a family of activists. When she went to Harvard and helped take over the ROTC building to protest the Vietnam War, her parents sent her flowers.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®