Tuesday, November 21

Chapter 49:

In Which We Read The Final Drafts of Poems Submitted By Josh For A Grade In His Poetry Class

Lady Whose Form is Beauty

In dawn’s lilting graces she stands
drinking in warmth and life
hands raised into sky in reverent awe
gentle breezes sway this nature’s child

through air and all of nature
she sings – her voice is mild yet to be admired
come heat or draught by strength of root she stands
when floods flow deep she gains vitality

for her food is not brought forth with fervent energy
but charms bring nourishment to where she stands
vast tracts of space above sing her nature
yet softly whispering she brings the world to awe

keeping safe her children through winter garners admiration
not in heavens yet on earth all nature
offer their comfort through frozen wellsprings yet her
xanthic robes blanket them from cold where ere they stand

meditating on her ease of days
just as her wrapped body begins to lose its power
quiet reigns across frozen expanse of sky
revealing her tenderness throughout all winter’s dome

until she is rekindled of life in standing graces this
zenith under gentle skies leaves all nature in awe

West Nickel Mines

Monday, outside Paradise
Shots were heard from the small
One-room Amish schoolhouse
As the gunman took three lives
Wounding many, then turning the gun on himself
Roberts had no previous criminal record

I received word just like anyone else
Helicopter shots of the green pastures
Surrounding this traumatic bloodbath
Where ten were shot by one
Whose sense of revenge
Prompted him to slaughter the innocent

I saw the horse-drawn buggies sitting
Empty near the school afterwards
As grieving parents for the last time
Held their little girls in their arms
Two of the injured died that day
In the emergency room – They were lucky

There is nothing to be done for the injured
But patch them up and send them home
Where their scars will never heal
Seeing three of their friends bound and shot
Executed for no reason they could fathom
As the boys all walked away untouched

I change the channel to see more newscasts
Relating two other shootings that week
Colorado and Las Vegas
In the same way committed
By two other men who ended it all in blood of others
So I change the channel again to watch the Simpsons


Thrumming of the snow
Ice falls striking hardened ground
Breath freezes on lips
Outward world remains asleep
While under snow new growth begins

Sleet and hail forbear
The death of seeds has begun
To show forth new life
White and green begin to war
To keep the ice or melt him

With great bravado
Wind, rain, growth: the elements
Seeds resurrected
Grass and ground combine in mud
Roaring grandeur fades to calm

Gentlest time of hope
In stiff breeze, cool air, clear sky
Hoist our kites skyward

Ever lusty month
Devoid of happy festives
Closes growing hope
Replacing seed with blossom
Hope secured – Spring’s fulfillment

Growth has been sealed
Creation begins her march
Towards heated decay
Clouds carrying no water
The sky becomes a desert

Heat begins to climb
The mountain snows are melted
Leaving us bone dry

The earth cracks beneath
Craving the former deep rains
No clouds pass over
Withering leaves cling to branches
Drinking dry the marrow life

Until rain strikes once
The soil – a sponge – drinks, thirsts,
Soon is satisfied

Fallen leaves surround
Colors: orange, yellow, brown
Cover the green lawns
Football play-offs, apple pie
Pumpkin, mask, and sugar-coats

Jackets and mittens
Hearths begin to blaze anew
In the cold clear night
The moon flits across the sky
Winter has set in early

Begin again life –
But not now. Go deep under
Come blanket yourself
In soft, cold brightness of night
To the quiet pulse of snow

Ode to the Post Office Square Garden, Hayfork, CA

Garden Club of sixty-five ded’cated
Said it were for Civic Beauty
Right next on to the Postal Office
It were right nice for a spell
They kept her up for neigh on to
Well for a space

But you can not never tell now
‘Cept for the signs ‘bout
Winnin’ that a-ward in sixty-seven –
Town just lost the drive to maintain
When the mill close up

It got two oaks – one to a end –
And a big fir we decorate
Come Christmas – we light her up
She look nice then for a while
Got four Choke-Cherry though
Come fall they mess yer car some

They all put up this here clock
In honor a’ that doctor
And what he done for this town
But it stopped for last three year
Afore we noticed it

More weeds than flower grows now
And them good plants is moldin’
Used to be we kept lawns squared
But we let it go too and now it just weeds
Over yonder tree done grows good
Been might near a hundred year old

‘Cause her roots go deep an strong
While whole town decays
Before our very eyes
Grows old drops limbs – keels over
The weeds grow deep whilst all the flowers die

On Writing

Night finds my head upon the table
Passing hands through tortured hair
waiting for inspiration to arrive
sweating - sighing impatiently

I see the tortoise slowly pad her way
Tilting her wrinkled, aged beak
Into the waters of a clean night pool
From where she lays upon the grassy bank

The ripples from her mouth cross the way
Disturbing the moonlight shining in the dark surface
Riding the small waves just beyond the reflection
Of a large oak tree’s shadowy foliage

The oak stretches a limb down, down,
Softly, tenderly caressing each ripple as it passes
Creating a symphony of reflection:
Light and darkness dance upon the water

The moonlight flitting across the waves
Blending with the water lilies – each white crown
Waiting for the morning as they rock and watch
Water sprites play in quickly fading motion

Each ripple subsides, leaving behind a still mirror
Calming the reflected moon and oak
As on the grassy banks of night
The tortoise watches her own reflection

I take up pen and paper once again
bringing bits and scraps of self along
sufficed by what the tortoise left behind
life – distilled upon a page

For Dr. V. F.

Immortality was his tortured prize:
self only to gratify, honor from all.
The very means of his great fame
would bring infamy to his family name

Throwing all his mind and energy and pride
into infusing life in one long since dead –
to become a god was his success:

yet victories brought him no rest
as his creation he sought to destroy
as into night both man and monster fled:

the one to friends and love quick homeward flies
his creature to no more recall;
the other, dumb and blind on his own
to learn great truths, in hiding was his home.

Humanity could not long endure the sight
of one who looks the embodiment of resurrection –
a monster hideous to behold
who was innocent, his large heart pure as gold

and so pursued his maker, love to know,
from the very one who made him, or if that denied,
a helper, like himself, whom he could love

but Victor’s heart was pitiless and cold
for while he denied love one he had created
loved a woman, took her as his bride.

Yet ere the consummation of that night
the creature entered without their detection
he showed no pity, and Victor the price would pay:
his new bride lay cold beneath the clay.

V.F. lay all blame upon the beast, in wrath
bent to destruction of the other swiftly stepped –
that life the doctor newly had bestown –
who like himself wished not to be alone

yet Victor could not see that upon him lay all the blame
in vain he sought this lonely creature’s life
across the globe, until in Arctic snow

his life was rescued – to them he told his woe:
of how this creature deserved only death
as himself lay dying in his anger

Blinded, his pride stayed until at last
in pity over his breathless maker wept
the creature – to love he only sought to cleave
in solitude this world he too would leave.

With tortured steps the silent monster left
a corpse of man who had died as he lived:
the world would long remember this doctor’s name
yet celebrate it only in the monster’s fame.

Chapter 48:

Three Poems Written By Josh Durring His Poetry Class Which He Did Not Submit
On Reading

Once more I begin to turn the pages
Of a friend kept high upon a shelf
Where he expectantly waits to be taken down
And read, re-read, and comfort
Or else release emotion pent up
Until patiently realizing them through words

Fantastic pictures, sounds, scents, tastes – only words
Gently and masterfully crafted upon pages
Worlds take flight; with them, my soul rises up
Above the heights of chair, table, shelf –
Into the stratosphere and beyond, or with comfort
Of ocean’s depths, I will go down.

Down into battles I am plunged, down
Into solitary islands: the only voice is my own words,
Plunged into tragedy where there seems no comfort,
Then up again into life’s joys and triumphs in history’s pages
With those whose lives refuse to stay upon a shelf,
Then up into joy and hope; to Paradise, to Heaven – Up!

Until the heights of human knowledge reached – up
Higher we can not go, so we must plunge headfirst down
To depths of humanity far below the ocean’s lowest shelf
Yet, in merely a breath, these words
Can vanish – can remove entire worlds – can empty pages
To bring us back into reality’s everyday comfort

And yet our lives are not of comfort
But of struggle towards hope which builds us up,
Of endless textbook pages,
Of sorrow which drowns – until once again we plunge down
Into another life and place and time of only words
By simply reading books from off their shelf

I often feel much like a book upon his shelf –
Endlessly waiting for my worlds within to comfort
Another and endear them to myself through words
To take their soul in mine and lift them up
If they will only pick and take me down
And begin to read the stories within my pages

But time now draws when I must place these pages I write upon a shelf
Until they are taken down by another, and these words comfort
And uplift their souls and imaginations by my own written life of words.

April, 2004

The snake wound its way through the crowd
Black it was from head to toe
Three hundred tassels moving in the morning breeze
As Pomp and Circumstance blared in glorious midi
I was a part of the tail
My mortarboard cap trying to take flight:
To flap and soar above the crowded faces before its time
Friends and family sporting cameras
Flash the stage over and over again
Just in case someone knows the graduate
And yet the music goes on
Repeating itself as the snake passes
Across the outdoor stage
Shaking hands with the President
(Who didn’t know any of them)
Ws though best friends
The speaker ground out a message
Trying to make it sound fresh as the first time it was given
During the Nixon administration
But was like offering a bowl of soggy oatmeal
After a Turkey Dinner

Discover: Science, Technology, and the Future – October 2006

What if you could become a savant for a few minutes?
The proliferation of oddball animals offers a showcase
Long term biological affects of climate change
Einstein was a kind of physics hippie
Billions of neurons undergo a synchronous one-second burst
Of non-REM electrical activity
1,000 times a night
Geneticists recently hit on a way to convert any normal cell
Into an immortal stem cell, capable of both living forever and morphing
Complicated gear trains that gave away the machine’s purpose
Showing how technically advanced the Greeks were
The first computer

NASA’s greatest spacecraft
Hover over the battered surface of Mercury
Linger over the rolling face of the sun
Night and day, rain or shine
Every drill and every mission reinforce
That character always lends to success
The latest in dark matter, dark energy, and the end of the universe
Science could help solve

Every part of your body receives relaxation and support
Stress can be confronted by replacing hormones
But in today’s stress-filled world, those systems are not nearly enough

“Soon I’ll be fed up with reality” Einstein wrote in 1921
Is science crashing against the limits of knowledge?
Monkey Matchmakers
Orangutans are smarter than Chimpanzees
Countries with high toxoplasmosis are neurotic
The cat-borne parasite could be causing mass personality change
HDTV breeding an even less intelligent, less scientific culture than we already have
Our music has lost its variety blamed on the tools we use to make the music
The brain isn’t building, but rather downsizing

Einstein’s triumphs were guided not by strange new experiments
Monitoring the brains of locust while it watched scenes from Star Wars
But by logic
In today’s stress-filled world, those systems are not enough

Is science crashing tot he limits?
Smashing icons is never a popular business
Science will eventually reach its limits
“Religion might start to appeal to people again”
Withdrawal symptoms may occur
“I don’t, however, think that people will or should turn to religion”
Meanwhile I commune with Einstein and do what I can to follow
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists,
Not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings”
Einstein’s faith leaves no place for a literal heaven
Belief in beautiful, orderly scientific theories
I have faith – yes, that word again –
You should notice distractions fading softly into the background
Current events might prove otherwise

Micro-focus X-ray machine built around the mystery object
Revealed ancient inscriptions
“If you don’t have blocks, books or CD cases work nicely”

Strange math may explain why time keeps on slipping into the future
Flesh-ripping kangaroos
The world’s next continent
Miniature Tyrannosaurs
You’ll feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud
1,000 times a night
Although the noise reduction will be subtle
With one kilobyte of memory
A bare-breasted woman adorns the reverse side
Using its Electronic Mail system
Its low resolution inviting active interpretation from its viewers
Monitoring the brain of locust while it watches Star Wars
It will make a 3-D version available to the public
Adding that dental infections were a leading cause of death
You will experience a new level of audio quality that’s even closer to a live performance

It requires little space and fits just about anywhere
It installs in less than a minute
And folds away neatly into a compact travel bag
On wheels like a piece of airline luggage
Fits into most trunks
Combining thousands of real life images and voices of native speakers
Even in a garage or basement
It balances blood sugar, and repairs bad back and shoulders
If you are suffering from stiff joints
In 23 percent of the drug sessions
The study monitors judged who was tripping and who wasn’t
Night or day, rain or shine
You won’t even notice it’s strapped to your wrist

Be sure you have at least eight hours to devote to sleep before activity
Side effects may include unpleasant taste, headache, drowsiness and dizziness
Feel the instant effects
The End of Science
Withdrawal symptoms may occur

(All text in this poem taken from the October issue of Discover magazine)