eagle’s flight – I simply must – 1/21/15

I was given the book, “Teaching With Fire – Poetry That Sustains The Courage To Teach” some years ago when I took a weekend “Emmaeus Walk” retreat at the Methodist Church in Los Gatos. A woman pastor friend who had been in the high school group Janet and I had led for a time years previous, gave it to me. I’ve read it off and on for some years.  Each short section contains a brief statement by a teacher  about what gives them courage to keep teaching and connecting with kids, and a poem that they have found to be especially inspiring. The last teacher featured is Parker Palmer (go look him up) and the poem he loves is “The low road” by Marge Piercy. It hit me strong and well today, as I wonder how to move forward with my poetry and music passions and a job that really isn’t making enough money to live on long term.  There are plenty of times when I doubt the value of poetry that doesn’t pay my way, but must be written.  As a writer friend told me once, “… the only people who write poetry are those that have to”.  Well, I have to.

I simply must
[ audio ]

I have to write poetry
even if it’s talking only to myself
I break out of the word-molds everyone uses
that smooth over rough spots
and hide inconveniences

I need the rough edges
and textures
to get at the reality behind our pleasantries
that patch the “too hard to think about” spots
the broken pot holes that all know how to automatically avoid
the painful parts,
the too disruptive parts that threaten to completely burst my world view bubble
the parts I find awkward
that have no way to fit in

so I break the communication
writing words
and removing all the those that don’t help
that conspire to cover up
that pretend to know more that I can really say
and I’m left with
a poem
that speaks to me
about doors through death
about grace
and the power of love
and I show faith
by returning
to see the path before me
slowly come into focus
as I take

Here’s Marge Piercy’s poem that I found so encouraging this morning ….

The low road
[ link ]
[clark’s audio ]

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can’t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again and they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

-Marge Piercy

From “The Moon is Always Female”, published by
Alfred A. Knopf, Copyright 1980 by Marge Piercy.

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