Let us open this day with poetry
A quick, random, and casual perusal of poets and the seasons of the year gives us a general idea about their feelings when it comes to autumn: This is when we look back at summer, at the glory days of sunshine and harmless clouds, picnics and fireworks, lazy afternoons and love that blossoms in the warmth. It gives us a pretty good idea about how they feel about summer.
You don’t want to explore poets and their feelings about winter. Trust me. Other than maybe Robert Frost, reading winter poems is as much fun as getting a root canal except without the fun.
But spring? Ah, spring. A new poet is born every minute in spring, including some who end up working for Hallmark.
To me, though, pretty definitely not a poet, spring means only one thing, maybe two if you count yard work. But let’s review a little first.
I recently read an article, now lost in the maze of Internet-based words that cross my screen every day, almost none of them by poets, in which the author attempted to point out the differences in our days from just a few years ago, technologically speaking.
And of course he’s right, and of course a lot of it is obvious. The way we communicate, read, watch, listen and potentially smell is radically different from, say, 30 years ago, and a lot of that I’d call growth, or at least efficiency.
Some things I miss, though, and for some reason I started thinking about terminology. I recently discovered that as recently as the 1940s, when one heard the word “computers” one thought of people, mostly women, who did (wait for it), computational work.
“She’s a computer,” someone would say and someone else would understand. She did computing stuff, with numbers and arrays and such. I had no idea. I have no idea why they were mostly women, either, except these were the war years.
Anyway. Moving on, I started thinking about the word “drive-in.”
When I was a child, a drive-in referred to a place where we saw movies, crammed into the backseat of the family station wagon, popcorn popped by mom, blankets and pillows filling every available space as we were sure to fall asleep at some point during the second feature, waking only as Dad was pulling out of the theater parking lot.
To Dad, though, “drive-in” meant something else. It referred to a restaurant, like the few Sonics you can find around our area (they’re still here, right?), where you drove in and parked, and someone came to your car to take your order.
To go to the drive-in, then, meant going to get a burger while checking out the other cars and possibly the waitresses, depending on your age and gender.
Now the word has become part of history, dusty and rarely used, replaced by “drive-thru,” which is how many of us get our coffee.
The drive-in theaters have mostly disappeared, and judging by my rare Sonic sightings so has the drive-in restaurant (whose destiny, as it turns out, was pretty much written by a couple of drive-in operators by the name of McDonald, who found a more efficient way to serve quick hamburgers. Another story).
But even poets know that the world changes, regardless of our inattention or resistance. I actually like a lot of this world I live in, but, again, I miss things. I miss certain people. I miss less hustle and bustle.
Like a lot of people, I appreciate our cohesiveness, our connectivity across the miles and oceans, our ability to keep in touch with friends and stay up-to-date on the news, but I mourn sometimes for a day – just a day – when I didn’t feel compelled to press a power button.
Poets understand this, this remembrance of things past, even if the past is mostly imagined. That’s why they get so busy in the autumn. A good poem always has a tinge of regret, of things that were and never will be again.
But certain poets – not all, but a fair number – understand spring. They understand love, of course, and blossoms, re-growth and grass and flowers and passion, particularly passion.
These certain poets I’m thinking of, though, see a past that comes alive every spring, with the same terminology. There are words and terms that haven’t changed in more than a century.
Words that Walt Whitman, for just one example, would recognize in an instant if he were alive today (he would be 193, so this is all sort of theoretical, but still: He would know).
They crawl out from winter, these poets, with one thing on their mind (not lawn work). And they are, at least I sometimes think, my favorites, because they write of a favorite subject, one that technology has barely brushed, one that carries an ancient language that is alive and well.
There is no writer quite like a poet, and no poet quite like the one who writes about this subject, and I have many favorites, but J. Patrick Lewis might be at the top.
Lewis mostly writes children’s books, but he is the poet laureate for me every spring for his “The Reason For Rainbows,” and these are my favorite lines:
Just pretend that the stick on your shoulder,
Is as wide as a bald eagle’s wing.
You’re a bird on a wire, And your hands are on fire – But you’re never too eager to swing.
It’s baseball season, in other words. And there are some good words out there, and I will read them, and my lawn will wait.