The Eric Gill Edition

The Eric Gill edition isn’t cheap.

It’s nicely bound and all the words are there

but even after looking at it I can’t tell

you anything about the text at all.

Is it in modern English? I don’t know.

It could be in Swahili or in French.

I didn’t pay attention to the text.

Who cares about the text? I’ve read it all

before a dozen, hundred, thousand times.

I was ensorcelled by the vines

that border every page. The blunt-leaved vines,

the repetitious pattern of the vines

that varies, changes, differs page to page;

the black-line vines that Eric Gill engraved.

They all are variations on a theme

of capture and support. The people there

are living, working, loving in the vines.

Elongated, they are stretched out of shape,

almost a parody of people. Still

they laugh and plot, are sinister and kind;

but always laughing, they are caught up in the vines,

and so am I. I can’t escape the vines.

I’m Rich!

I

I sold a postcard and a book today.

Before you tell me that’s woop-de-do

and there are people living on the street

who made more asking strangers if they had

a little extra change that they could spare,

I’ll tell you just exactly why I’m rich.

The woman asked if I would sign the card.

She has a friend, a birder, who is sick

and who collected postcards such as mine

that featured birds from all around the world,

and mine would be the only one that had

been signed, that had the artist’s signature.

The card, including tax, was just a buck,

but what I made was worth much more than that.

I’d made two people happy with that card.

II

The bestiary book I’d made for me.

It doesn’t have your ordinary cats

and birds and dogs and other animals.

The poems aren’t exactly for the kids.

They’re written for the parents reading them,

to keep the parents entertained while they

are reading to their kids. It’s not a book

that anyone would ever think would sell.

And yet another copy sold today.

And now I have to order more. Again!

My goofy little book’s a hit. I’m rich.

Blue Sky

It’s boring out. The uniformity

of nothing in the sky but blue is dull,

insipid, and the blue is washed-out grey.

There could at least be contrails or some birds

to break the uniform monotony.

Unfortunately, Rocs are not around

but even if they were this empty sky,

this insubstantial sky would not support

their majesty. Is that the reason why

there are no planes? They’ve fallen from a sky

that’s too ephemeral to hold them up?

There needs to be some clouds, a hurricane,

tornado, something, even just a breeze

to stir the trees and bring the world to life.

But nothing. Zilch. The sky, the world is blah.

It has to be the sky.

 

There isn’t any giddyup today

My giddyup has gotten up and gone

and I am just a plodding, sway-backed nag

that’s heading for the glue pots not a race.

My race is run. I need my heating pad.

It isn’t that I’m old exactly. It

is just that I am feeling old today.

Tomorrow I’ll be eight again and be

the conqueror of worlds and capable

of anything and everything. You’ll see.

But now I need to rest these ancient bones.

I know. I know. I’m pitiful. I know.

But yesterday. You should have seen me. Then

there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.

But that was yesterday and not today.

A Witching Hour

It’s midnight and the . . . Shhh. Don’t interrupt.

It’s midnight in your soul, your coal-black soul

you little monster, just because it is.

It’s midnight. I don’t care what time it is.

Forget about the sun. Well shade your eyes.

Pretend the sun is gone. Pretend it’s night.

It’s midnight and you’re standing in the rain.

Oh very well. You’re sleeping in your bed,

but it is raining and you’re getting wet.

Because the bed is sitting in the rain.

Of course it isn’t silly. I can put

your bed wherever, and it’s sitting in the rain.

Because it’s there. It’s midnight in the rain

and you, you little monster, you are wet.

And monsters . . . Yes, of course you’re still asleep.

I don’t know why. You’re soaking wet. Asleep.

Because I say that you are still asleep.

It isn’t silly. Fine then, go and play.

But it is midnight and you’re soaking wet.

An Open Letter to Another English Teacher

I read your letter, and I’m not impressed.

I didn’t think, “Oh, what a caring man.

It’s obvious he loves his students.” No.

What’s obvious to me is that you try.

You try to help your students; that you try

to comfort them, to understand the crap

they’re living with. You try and try and try,

and that’s the problem. All you do is try.

Do you remember Yoda? What he said?

There is no trying. You succeed or fail.

Don’t tell me how you’ve tried to help your kids.

Did you succeed? And more importantly

did they succeed? And how did they succeed?

I taught for thirty years. For thirty years

I heard the same excuses and complaints.

“Of course the kids are failures. You’d be too

if you were forced to live the life they live.

You simply do not understand their lives

and what they have to go through every day.”

And then they give the laundry list that proves

their students will be failures all their lives

despite how much they care, how much they try.

At least you didn’t tell me how you try

to get your students to enjoy the time

they spend in school because that’s telling me

you don’t expect your students to succeed,

instead that you expect your students will

be failures, nothing till the day they die.

I read your letter, and I’m not impressed.

Planting Time

The other day I thought about the seeds

from my tomato crop two years ago.

I saved the seeds of those I thought the best,

the ones that grew the best, produced the best,

and I’m determined, this year, that I’ll plant

tomatoes in my garden once again.

I only have to dig the garden beds,

remove the weeds that think they’ve found a home,

and fertilize, and somehow figure out

a way to keep the gophers, squirrels, and

the rabbits from destroying everything.

But there will be a bumper crop this year.

I won’t procrastinate. I’ll plant the seeds

as soon as winter’s over and it’s spring.

I know it April, but it’s winter still

and raining still. You can’t plant in the rain.

The reason nothing’s planted is the rain.

The rain’s the reason nothing’s in the ground.