Thursday, January 24, 2008

End-of-the-week report, and two poems

"Party on, Wayne."
"Party on, Garth."

(See how behind the times I am?)


Well. It is Thursday night and, thus, the beginning of my weekend.

This first week of the semester went about as well as first weeks can go. My students are quiet for now but seem okay with being in school--a good sign, I figure, seeing as they've chosen to be in college.

Two first-day firsts for me (and you're perfectly welcome to think that I just don't get out very much or have finally, irrevocably, fallen so far behind the times that it'll be less embarrassing just to admit it):

1) One of my students' left side of his face is bearded. The right is not. This is not accidental or done for some dermatological or other medical reason. "It's the style," he says.

2) Another of my students, on the first day of class, brought a book with him that, I saw later, was Mein Kampf. I was so startled when I realized what book it was that I didn't think to ask why he had it with him. He doesn't strike me as the stand-on-a-table-in-a-beerhall-and-declare-a-revolution type and, though you may read that as my saying that I think he lacks ambition and it's not good to talk my students down that way, especially after one class day, I'll just say that I think it's perfectly okay to be lacking in certain ambitions. Few would hold it against him.

As always, it's good to be back in the classroom.

Below the fold is far more substantive stuff.

Via The Writer's Almanac comes a poem by Keith Douglas, born on this day in 1920 and best known as the writer of a memoir chronicling his time in North Africa during World War II.

How To Kill

Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.
The ball fell in my hand, it sang
in the closed fist: Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill.

Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears

and look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the wave of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.

The weightless mosquito touches
her tiny shadow on the stone,
and with how like, how infinite
a lightness, man and shadow meet.
They fuse. A shadow is a man
when the mosquito death approaches.



Yesterday was Derek Walcott's birthday (he was born in 1930). He may be best-known in this country for Omeros, his marvelous retelling of the Odyssey set in the Caribbean.

Sea Grapes

That sail which leans on light,
tired of islands,
a schooner beating up the Caribbean

for home, could be Odysseus,
home-bound on the Aegean;
that father and husband's

longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is like
the adulterer hearing Nausicaa's name in
every gull's outcry.

This brings nobody peace. The ancient war
between obsession and responsibility will
never finish and has been the same

for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore now
wriggling on his sandals to walk home, since
Troy sighed its last flame,

and the blind giant's boulder heaved the trough from
whose groundswell the great hexameters come to the
conclusions of exhausted surf.

The classics can console. But not enough.

2 comments:

Pam said...

Those would have been firsts for me too (a beard only on one side of the face? Really?). The other - that one would be the toughest. I'm not teaching this semester and I'm very happy about it - it means that I don't have three hours a week where I feel like I'm short-changing someone.

René López Villamar said...

I know a guy that uses the same style. He goes to the same coffee shop as I do. Whe I finally got the nerve to ask, he told me that he is an actor and is planing the main part in Victor Victoria.

Here in Mexico City it's not that unsual to see all kinds of people reading Mein Kampf, so maybe I miss something here.

But mainly, this comment is to say thank you for the poems. You've made my day.