A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Two poems, Bikes, Fishing, and Meaning

These two poems touched me deeply, so I thought I would share them with you.  Each morning I listen on the Internet to Garrison Keillor's five minute program on NPR entitled "Writer's Almanac." Here is the address of the web site:  http://americanpublicmedia.publicradio.org/programs/index.shtml#TheWritersAlmanac

I have subscribed to the Almanac for many month now. Listening to Garrison's gentle voice is a relaxed and humane way to get centered before I begin my day. Poetry also helps remind me that I am not the center of the universe, but only a small component of a gigantic galaxy; that I am at once both special and unique, yet common and a fellow traveler with countless billions who populate the planet, past, present and future.

I love to hear Keillor read poetry because his diction helps me derive additional meaning from the sounds and rhythm of the words.  As a bonus, I also learn a great deal of history and biography as he highlights the lives of people, some famous and some not, born on the date I am listening and he also calls attention to special historical events which he feels are worth mentioning.

I have found it useful to read these poems aloud, either to myself or to a friend, once I have heard Keillor's interpretation.  It's amazing how much extra meaning can be gleaned from massaging poetry this way.

Hope you enjoy these poems, and don't forget to sign up for your subscription to Writer's Almanac.

Not Forgotten

I learned to ride
the two wheel bicycle
with my father.
He oiled the chain
clothes-pinned playing cards
to the spokes, put on the basket
to carry my lunch.
By his side, I learned balance
and took on speed
centered behind the wide
handlebars, my hands
on the white grips
my feet pedaling.
One moment he was
holding me up
and the next moment
although I didn't know it
he had let go.
When I wobbled, suddenly
afraid, he yelled keep going—
keep going!
Beneath the trees in the driveway
the distance increasing between us
I eventually rode until he was out of sight.
I counted on him.

That he could hold me was a given
that he could release me was a gift.
"Not Forgotten" by Sheila Packa, from Cloud Birds. © Wildwood River Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

The release was for me an invitation to be free, to travel the neighborhood, and later in my car, the country. On my bike, I was in charge of me and not controlled by another person--parent, teacher, minister, or even friend. The feeling of being in charge my own life, if even for a brief time, was among the most exhilarating sensations I have ever felt. And, on my bike, pedals flying,  two pistols safely in holsters, I could ride my faithful steed after Indians or bandits just like the heroes I had just watched at the double-header at the Bard theater that was just down the "gully, through the sagebrush, and up the draw" from home.

The River

The way we fished for bullheads
was simple: hook, line, bobber,
cane pole and worm.

The murky, brown water of Root River
is where they hid
and waited our return.

The bobber was red & white.
At the first bite it danced then ran,
before going under—and I knew

that if it stayed under the fish
was on. Hooking them (they almost
always swallowed the bait)

was one thing, getting the hook
out without getting hooked oneself
on their lateral and frontal barbs

was quite another. That was
the solitary fishing
that few enjoyed as much as me.

I didn't understand then what
I needed in equal parts was
excitement, activity and adventure—

and more important than any
of these, solitude, in which my
being could be nourished

in silence. That silence
in which the imagination,
unbidden, comes to life.

Fishing alone brought
all of this together,
because it included living

beings, the mystery of life
from another realm that I could
pursue with my body my

imagination and my mind,
marveling at what I found,
not knowing what any of it could mean

or did mean, or would mean,
as I slowly moved
through the opening days of my life.
"The River" by David Kherdian, from Nearer the Heart. © Taderon Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now

I, too, fished for bullheads in Harrod's Creek outside of Louisville, in Kentucky Lake, and finally in the Mecca of catfish fishing, the pond behind Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown, KY.  There, using vanilla-scented dough balls or worms, we fished for catfish, watching our corks or red and white bobbers for signs of piscean interest by catfish which had been raised on  distillers grains discarded from the bourbon-making operation on the hill above the pond.  Fishing there in the shadow of 800,000 barrels of aging Bourbon stored in the Heaven Hill warehouses up the hill was my first taste of heaven (so to speak) and, as the poet says, fishing "included living/ beings, the mystery of life/ from another realm that I could/pursue with my body my/ imagination and my mind/ marveling at what I found/ not knowing what any of it could mean/or did mean, or would mean/ as I slowly moved/ through the opening days of my life." My mind, as you know, still marvels...
But of this I am certain  in my own search for  "meaning."  There is little in this world to surpass or equal  the solitude and freedom offered by lazy summer days spent fishing unless it is the reward of tasting  fried grain-fed catfish and sips of heavenly Heaven Hill seated with a dear friend next to a smoking, black cast iron fry pan redolent with the scents of hot lard, onions and crispy, cornmeal-dredged catfish fillets. That lends us an unearned glimpse or foretaste of heaven, I suspect.

1 comment:

  1. awesome writing Pa, thanks for the poetry and for your comments as to why/how they are so meaningful to you. This blog is such a gift to me- so very glad I am able to read it and get a glimpse into some of the many things swirling around in your head.

    I know memorial day is a tough one for you; you know more than most, care more than most, have seen more than most, and have really thought about what war means (and its meaninglessness).

    Thank you for these great posts.
    I love you so