I wanted to write a poem so I started to think about a subject, a line, an object, a scene or metaphor that could be turned into verse. In daily life there are so many things that we overlook. As we walk through the world we miss the everyday poetry in the simple acts of mowing the lawn, buying groceries or just sitting and looking at the floor.
I encounter three things this week that my brain is trying to condense into poems. There are feelings, images, and emotions that my poetic brain wants to convey to you. In my mind there is this desire to understand the symbols and hidden lessons of the simple world around us.
Jumbled in my head are thoughts – I think of a stew just starting to cook. Individual pieces float in cold water, but with time and heat they meld, merge and form a rich broth.
This week there are just pieces. Ingredients of what could be. That’s all I have this week.
Mowing the Lawn in the Desert
It was just after breakfast and before morning tea that I stepped out into the desert air. Above the backyard rises a bare mountain. It’s a desert mountain with a dusting of sage brush, a tree sprinkled here and there, on top of rocky sand. The bones are rock that the wind flies over. The air is still and I can smell the cold fragrance of pine and soil. In the tree tops air moves whispering of the coming afternoon wind.
From the shed I pull out the lawn mower and preform the ritual, slide the fully charged battery in, place the bag over the chute and wheel it to the corner of the lawn. The mower hums as I move it over the green.
A contrast. Artificial and out of place in the barren landscape, but yet perfectly fitting the neat garden and contained within the concrete sidewalks. Without human efforts the smell of fresh grass would not be possible. We have shaped the world to our desires. We live outside the intent of nature. We attempt to control pieces while the mountains watch our efforts.
I was standing at the cash register watching the checker scan my items: A bag of lettuce, a can of beans, a box of crackers …
Once scanned she placed, threw, launched the carefully chosen items on a conveyor belt that led to the bagger who was furiously shoving things into bags. The checker quickly placed a bottle on the belt. The round bottle fell over and started to roll. That’s when I noticed that the belt went slightly up hill and the bottle just spun in place. Gravity pulling back towards the checker while the movement of the belt tried to move it towards the bagger.
A box of pasta was discarded by the checker onto the conveyor. Moving up hill, I watched and wondered if the box would push the bottle to the bagger or would the rolling bottle push the box back to the checker.
In this drama, the box touched the bottle and stopped its spinning allowing the belt to push both up hill to the waiting bag.
How many of us are bottles?
How many of us are boxes?
How many of us need a box to stop our pointless rolling?
The Museum’s Concrete Floor
I was in the art museum. It was a good day, but also a bad day as my knee hurt and I needed my cane to walk. Titled Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement, this exhibit had many fine paintings, sculptures, books and other interesting art. Much of the work came from Birmingham where my wife was born and had spent time training to be a nursery nurse.
I thought I could see the art and find a poem.
Halfway through, I saw a bench and my knee begged me to sit awhile. It’s strange that after you see a lot of art that your brain wants to shutdown a bit. It’s an input overload. You see things – too many things and your brain stops processing the images. I let my eyes drop to the floor, resting both knee and brain.
The floor was concrete. Bare, but waxed and polished. There were a few stains and a small hole where likely someone had once shot a nail in to the floor – maybe for an old wall or exhibit case. From the wall there was a crack – thin, almost spiderweb like crack moving across the floor and under my bench. In the middle of the room a crack radiated out perpendicularly from the first crack I saw.
All concrete cracks. These cracks develop as the concrete dries, cures and shrinks. You can’t stop it. It’s part of the process – part of the essence of concrete. Builders and concrete workers have ways to hide the cracks. Those long lines on your driveway and the lines across the sidewalk are put there on purpose. These cuts are made when the concrete is wet and weakens the material at those lines. The cracks happen there. A clever concrete crew can make it look like there are no cracks, but it’s an illusion. They just know how to force the crack to be where they want it.
A floor like the museum has is normally covered in carpet or vinyl so you’d never see the crack. If you were in a hospital, grocery store or pet shop, you would see a nice floor, but the cracks would be hidden.
Here, where the art hangs on the walls, and where the walls change with every exhibition, they just let the floor run wild. It’s not meant to be seen.
But yet there is a pattern. There is a history of decisions. There is a story why. There is a metaphor that runs through our controlled yet wild lives.
Perhaps the poem is in the crack on the floor and not hanging on the wall.
And there is my stew. Raw food waiting to be cut, chopped, spiced, mixed, and simmered until a poem’s aroma fills the room.
What ingredients have you found this week?