For Rachel Button, who hails from metro Detroit but now lives in the state of Washington’s North Cascade Mountains, images of a Veterans Day parade on Woodward Avenue in Detroit remind her of the march that often goes unacknowledged. Specifically, Eric Seals photographs for the Detroit Free Press inspired her to write this poem:
You wanted the poor and tired huddled masses—
the slack-jawed and stubbled—
but we march alone on Woodward
uniforms stiff on our still-broad shoulders,
The Free Press took pictures.
Photos of men,
marching a street edged by empty sidewalks,
black men and white men
some of us in leather and flannel
others in uniforms which trim our bodies
into silhouettes framed by brass buttons.
Imagine the hands at our sides:
wrinkled, smooth, freckled, gloved—
scarred by cuts and burns, scrapes and time—
hands that held babies,
hands that held our heads when loneliness
felt too heavy to hold on our necks.
We bend into cold with something like pride
not for the battles we fought,
but because we’re still standing, walking, moving,
together, slapping our shoes on Woodward,
standing straight, even if not one soul watches.
For an engaging and informative read, I highly recommend John Carlisle’s columnaccompanying Mr. Seals photos.Comments
During the course of a week, I read so many lovely letters and responses to our public radio program. Oftentimes people extend a simple “thank you” or a humble “this show caught me at the perfect time.” But, we also receive more devoted notes from folks who offer a piece of themselves.
Gary James, a bartender who was born and raised in Jamaica, sent us this lovely essay in response to our interview with poet Christian Wiman:
"I was on the job today getting upset at all that has to be done and trying to find a good station on the radio. Being frustrated with the numerous commercials, I switched to NPR radio where I heard the subject of poetry being discussed.
It got my immediate attention, because I have missed poetry in more ways than I care to admit. I have tried a lot of other ways to generate my inner thoughts in order to inspire myself but, in most cases, I failed miserably. Staying away from poetry was something I did deliberately because I got frustrated with the competitive nature that the genre seems to take on when too many poets are gathered in one room.
But something hit me today here on the job. I guess you could say that my creative juices were flowing. A title came to my mind which read, “Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do.”
The title seems to sum up how I was feeling and it led me to think back on my days of intense writing. I had to ask myself a question, “Do you love writing?” Of course the answer was a resounding yes!
Then the next obvious questions would be, “What is it about writing that I love so much?” I found the answer to not be as obvious as I thought it would be. Poetry has always been my escape.
It came very natural for me and there are those who say when it comes that easy it is not you who manifests the talent but rather it is a gift that is given to you. I have heard stories where people said that they were many gifted people who did not take advantage of their gift and end up losing it. I guess that statement was always in the back of my mind, which I believe held me back somewhat.
Sometimes it takes being away from something to truly appreciate its value, and I am finding this truth to be very pronounced at this point in my life.
As I have stated above that my reason for not getting deeper into poetry was because of the competition. Now that I think about it, that statement may not be entirely true. I have to bear some of the blame. Every artist wants to be recognized for his work, and I am no different. But in trying to please everyone else, I have gone away from the very thing that I truly love.
I miss what this art form meant to me, how the words would magically appear in my head, how I would force myself to come up with the next rhyme, not wanting to move onto the next sentence until the present line matches the previous.
I blame myself for allowing my mind to be distracted from what was important and what gave me the most joy. Writing gives me the power to open closets that I have no business opening. It allows me to tell the stories that were not meant to be heard, and it provides me the ability to do this in a creative way. For that, I am very grateful.
With all this in mind, I have answered my own question, which is to get back to what I love, because that is where true happiness lives.”
This note makes it all worth the doing.
You’re likely to outlive some of your greatest joys. Don’t let that be the only period in your life when you become highly aware of them. Notice joy now and it will help you become a person of peace, integrity, and strength when there is less joy in your life.
His note, dawn’s foil —
One blow to fill her pale blue bell with sound,
One impulse to deliver; that serves to sever bonds
Of all things that entangle, sully, soil.
This is the Word that blasts the sap,
The sound of force
That lifts the arms of trees;
That fashions-forth the branches from within
To raise this world of darkwood iron all around;
This the rising sound
Of the very juice by which the ground toils,
Becomes each massive trunk and slender tendril coil
Upright, upreared, at prayer.
Bright above, the morning sky awakens,
She blues and beckons like a mother’s eye toward which
The sun climbs, wings beat a path, while feet
With new-found ease
Like light along the spangled grass self-hurl,
Fast follow down that one windfall trail
Being blazed toward Canaan by what lives.
Let this day go gray, grow disenchanted:
I know the crow.
Text and poem excerpted from “On Being More Than Ourselves Alone.” Read more of Paul Martin’s complete essay.Comments