Apr. 5, 2009

In Early Spring

by Larry Smith

April Prayer

by Stuart Kestenbaum

In Early Spring

Road catkins, russet and tan, let the
wind sweep over them as dusk
seeps in along the lake,
and I pass road puddles
swelling to ponds, mirroring
the sky's own silveriness.
At the railroad tracks seven geese
veer off and set down in a field
so that only their necks
speak for them, telling us all
to go on while they rest
by the barn. Today a man
asked me if I were depressed,
and I looked up and smiled.
No more than these geese or catkins
as light falls around them, no
more than those pine boughs
lifting in the wind—just so,
life goes on.

April Prayer

Just before the green begins there is the hint of green
a blush of color, and the red buds thicken
the ends of the maple's branches and everything
is poised before the start of a new world,
which is really the same world
just moving forward from bud
to flower to blossom to fruit
to harvest to sweet sleep, and the roots
await the next signal, every signal
every call a miracle and the switchboard
is lighting up and the operators are
standing by in the pledge drive we've
all been listening to: Go make the call.

"In Early Spring" by Larry Smith, from A River Remains. © WordTech Editions, 2006, (buy now) and "April Prayer" by Stuart Kestenbaum, from Prayers & Run-on Sentences. © Deerbrook Editions, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy at Amazon | buy at SPDbooks)

It's the birthday of the dismal philosopher Thomas Hobbes, (books by this author) born in Wiltshire, England (1588). In Leviathan (1651), he wrote: "The condition of Man is a condition of Warre of every one against every one."

It's the birthday of Booker T. Washington, (books by this author) born a slave in Hale's Ford, Virginia (1856). After he was freed, he taught himself the alphabet and went to school. Eventually, he became the principal of a new training school for young African-Americans at Tuskegee, Alabama. He believed that the best interest of African-Americans was to become educated in vocational and industrial skills. The Tuskegee Institute began in a single building with 30 students, but through his efforts grew into a modern university. He said, "There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, pure, simple and useful life."

It's the birthday of the poet Charles Algernon Swinburne, (books by this author) born in London (1837), a man who admired his own work more than his friends did. He wrote poetry that was considered scandalous during the Victorian era, but today sounds trite. He wrote:

Kneel down, fair Love, and fill thyself with tears,
Girdle thyself with sighing for a girth
Upon the sides of mirth,
Cover thy lips and eyelids, let thine ears
Be filled with rumor of people sorrowing.

Before he went to a friend's house, he would place a manuscript of his poems in his breast pocket and then button up his coat to make the bulge more obvious. He would sit in a chair completely rigid, and then would say in an absentminded way, "I have brought with me such and such book." He would wait in silence until someone said, "Oh, please do read it," which he would eagerly do. While he read his poems, he would jump around the room, and sometimes he became so emotional that he would scream.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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