I Brought Back All the World on My Face
Dear McKowen: I have spent a Sunday up on the mountain of Diablo: Motorcycling up and down, looking at the scenic view . . . I brought back all the world on my face–cheeks set aglow by sunset sky, planes, hawks, people, woods, horses, spring flowers and wind.
Years ago I found those words in a reflection of Lupe, a student of mine, from Puerto Rico, at Diablo Valley College. No wonder I enjoyed my work. Let’s make Lupe’s reflection look more like a poem:
by sunset sky, planes, hawks,
people, woods, horses,
spring flowers and wind
How does that look? Any better?
This makes me think of a class I had with some students one morning years ago. I remember putting a poem of William Carlos Williams on the chalkboard one day and pretending–just for fun, but more than that too–that I had written it to my wife and had left it on the refrigerator that morning.
So I asked the students if they thought Ruth should forgive me. Shouldn’t she be glad I ate the plums? They discussed that back and forth for a while. Some thought it was pretty sneaky.
Then I asked if I could get away with telling Ruth that my note was actually a poem? Maybe she’d go for it? Did they think my note was a poem? Come on!
Well, what if I had typed it up and arranged the words like this:
THIS IS JUST TO SAY
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
I thought she ought be damned glad to have such a swell husband even if he did eat the plums. (I did later confess that William Carlos Williams was actually the guilty party.)
And along that same line of thought I asked if, say, someone had written a note like that instead of writing a regular reflection, should I forgive him or her? And I played around with that a while: Is he or she “getting it” – getting what the study of our language and its literature is all about? I asked. Isn’t eating a delicious plum, whether school keeps or not, precisely the same thing as reading a delicious poem?
Remember when Piglet asked Pooh, “When you get up in the morning, Pooh, what’s the first thing you think about?” And Pooh says, “What’s for breakfast? And what do you think about, Piglet?” “I wonder what exciting is going to happen today,” says Piglet. Pooh ponders that and then says, “It’s the same thing.”
There are delicious plums right under our noses – wonder moments – lying about on sidewalks and in the dust balls under the bed – everywhere. And as Auntie Mame said to Patrick when things looked dour, “ Remember, my little love, life is a banquet, and some poor bastards are practically starving to death!”
It’s a matter