Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bobbing Along

Is it rainy and grey where you are, too? Work day not quite going as you planned? I was faced with three options this morning in class: a) I am a boring teacher, b) I am teaching something boring - hardly likely, as is Walt Whitman, or c) I have not thought of proper ways to wake students up to Whitman poetry at 8:30am. Am telling self that c) is the most hopeful option, so will try to think of more electrifying pedagogic style better-suited to ungodly hour.

Anyway, in spirit of humdrum day but also of remembering to laugh and smile about the humdrum and its relation to the beautiful, my colleague next door just gave me this copy of a poem she wrote. I love the way it laughs at itself for sublimating a bit of daily debris, and it's quite a funny poem in general, and kind of a deceptively sexy one (I think). In case it lifts your spirits, too, or makes you smile:

Rafting the Deerfield River
by Elizabeth Libbey

Motorless. Loosed. Playing the current's
slow game. Rocks just below surface
make the water seem to stand still—heart
skips one long beat, feathers, sets itself
right again, freezing out of mind's drift
the unlikeliest object into significance.
Take, for instance, this Clorox bottle

I float neck-and-neck with, will soon overtake:
no sign, surely, from the Zeus I believe
might still descend on me. Yet its emptiness
fills with my remembering until ponderous
memory overtakes me: thirty years ago, seated
drunk with my lover beside the Iowa River
I observed the miracle congeal out of noon's glare—

opaque white upstream, bobbing on down,
nodding its mythic head my way, grand as
a blue ribbon float in the Tournament of Roses
parade ... surely Zeus has better things
to do? More luminosity? I must have thought
Zeus dull drunk like us, that even a god
as old as the sky needs a little safe harbor

now and then, that Zeus should paddle on over,
follow my lover's example: snake his head
down into my lap. I couldn't breathe. To watch
those wings spread bank to bank! My life
was all going to happen at once, no need
to tread water, go down the third time, wait
for safe passage through parted waters—I'd

just cross over on the wings of a deity
as if some gentleman in a novel had stretched
his overcoat across a puddle for me, and
offered his hand—raising his head, my love
took one quick look, said, "Your swan's a
used-up bottle of bleach," and oh, so like
a boat adrift on the stream when it hits

the hard fact of bank, waking the sleeping one
who tips, then, over, flails in six inches
of water, I flailed free, came back to myself
undrowned. Hand loosed now like some
irresistible fly in the current, I can
feel Poseidon rising famished to take it, take
this ponderous vessel, this surprise bride.

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4 Comments:

Blogger damion said...

great poem. gave me the kick in the ass i needed. back to the books.

3:23 PM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger summer m. said...

i say you bring your students krispy kremes. i don't eat 'em, but i think they have enough sugar in them to wake your students up, and the sugar high won't end until after class.

3:39 PM, September 20, 2005  
Anonymous goatdog said...

I'm not sure you can get students energized at 8:30. I was surly and unresponsive during a discussion of Zola's Germinal, which is one of my favorite books, when that discussion took place at 8:30.

10:15 AM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger Dr. S said...

For that matter, *I* am not even remotely energized at 8:30. Maybe make them get up a couple of times during class for some reason and switch seats, or some such. One of those cheesy things you'd never do if the class met at a reasonable time.

I like to tell my students, as a last resort, that if I can't sleep or stare off vacantly into space, they can't either.

8:59 PM, September 22, 2005  

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