Monday, April 27, 2009

Get Ready for Poem in your Pocket Day

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Start thinking about what poem you'll put in your pocket for Poem in your Pocket Day on April 30. Will it be a classic that reminds you of your 8th grade English teacher? Or a sentimental favorite that you first read when your love was young?

Maybe the poem you put in your pocket will be a brand-new find, something that makes you think, hmmm, I should seek out poetry more often. Or maybe it will be a Psalm, or other poetic verses from the Bible, which of course is packed with poetry and all sorts of other literary forms.

I'll help my kids choose a poem to put in their pockets on PIYP day. It'll probably be something by Shel Silverstein, a perennial favorite among all Peevies, not just the short ones. (FYI, if you only click on one link in this post, click on the Shel Silverstein one, because it's fun.) Maybe this one, called Messy Room:

Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
His underwear is hanging on the lamp.
His raincoat is there in the overstuffed chair,
And the chair is becoming quite mucky and damp.
His workbook is wedged in the window,
His sweater's been thrown on the floor.
His scarf and one ski are beneath the TV,
And his pants have been carelessly hung on the door.
His books are all jammed in the closet,
His vest has been left in the hall.
A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,
And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.
Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
Donald or Robert or Willie or--
Huh? You say it's mine? Oh, dear,
I knew it looked familiar!

You are going to think I am terribly predictable and lame when you hear what poem I chose to put in my pocket on PIYP day. Too bad. I came across it by accident while cruising around on, and at first I was going to choose this one instead, because when I read it I thought, wow, this woman is my psychic twin! Only smarter and more literary.

But then I clicked to read about the author, Elizabeth Alexander, and I was reminded that she read a poem at Obama's inauguration--and I remembered liking it when I heard it; so that's my poem in my pocket: Praise Song for the Day. Here it is:

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

I would love to hear your PIYP selection.

1 comment:

Mr. Peevie said...

I'm reminded of C. Peevie's poem rendition at his kindergarten talent show; Bear in There, by Shel Silverstein:

There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire--
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
He's munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there--
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.