In high school we had to identify a life-goal for our senior profile in the yearbook. Most of my classmates gave a glib or silly answer, but I spoke with unyielding honesty. I wanted to have a poem published in the New Yorker.
I write fairly awful poetry. I’ve had three published as companion pieces, forty years ago in the long-defunct Eads Bridge. They might be the only decent verses that I’ve ever written. Still, I kept trying. The flow of words captivates me. They trickle over stones, spring waters running through my winter-weary mind.
I’ve memorized three or four poems in my life. “Jenny Kissed Me”, by Leigh Hunt. “Fire and Ice”, by Robert Frost. The last few lines of “And There Will Come Soft Rains”, by my favorite poet and fellow St. Louisan, Sara Teasdale.
And, “The Eagle”, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
At times in my life, I have also wanted to be a photographer. I hold fewer illusions in that regard. I do not claim to be adept at the technical aspects of camera-work. I shoot on automatic, and only for purposes of recording my world and illustrating what I write.
This afternoon, I chanced to glance out of my window and see a bird high above our meadow. I could not stop myself. With the lyrical Tennyson lines rolling over themselves in my mind, I grabbed my camera and scooted onto the porch.
My friend Sally asked me yesterday if life’s vagaries had slowed the pace of entries here. I contemplated her words, but then, found myself telling the truth. This blog might have run its course. It could be evolving. I cannot say. This much remains true: Writing compels me. My words might not dance over the smooth stones of a river’s bed, but they tumble to the keyboard as swiftly and as relentlessly from my hands as from the pen of any poet.
It’s evening, on the seventeenth day, of the seventy-first month since I began this endless year, in which I strive not to complain. From the California Delta, my corner of paradise, I exhort you: Take up your camera, your computer, your brush, your song, your courage. Do not let go of that which you grasp until whatever you long to do consumes each waking hour and sends you tired but content into the night.
BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
With special thanks:
To Sally Kerchner for her mad listening skills;
And to Genevieve Casey, for encouraging me to value myself.