Mad 05650l33t Skillz

Songs of Innocence, Introduction
You are ‘regularly metric verse’. This can take
many forms, including heroic couplets, blank
verse, and other iambic pentameters, for
example. It has not been used much since the
nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer
rhyme without meter, or even poetry with
neither rhyme nor meter.

You appreciate the beautiful things in life–the
joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the
rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as
a series of little poems. The result (or is it
the cause?) is that you are pensive and often
melancholy. You enjoy the company of other
people, but they find you unexcitable and
depressing. Your problem is that regularly
metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
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Yeah, that’s about right.


I haven’t written here in a while, mostly because I’ve been working on another White Wolf thing, writing my exams, filling out comments on students for the end-of-term, correcting end-of-term examinations, and going to fencing practice with a kind of moronic dedication. Fencing season is almost over. Our match from last night has been rescheduled for tomorrow, and I’m pleased by this result — it means I can take three kids I normally wouldn’t take anywhere, especially since one of the ninth graders has been such a pill the last week that I’ve decided not to take him anywhere for a while. Maybe ever. Given that he lives on my dorm, this sucks for him — but having regularly gone out of my way to help and guide him, and having it regularly thrown in my face, makes me reluctant to help him out. Or reward him.

Tonight is set aside for comments; I was hoping to go to the Frantic Rabbit tonight, but I really would like to get more than half of my comments done this week — I’m hoping to make it to the premiere of where your mouth is… on Thursday, but only if I can finish 30 comments in the next two days. That’s the goal. We’ll see if I can meet the goal.

Here’s my newest poem. It feels good to have a new thing that isn’t the Epic.

February Triptych

I. Feralia
Between first and second thaw,
in the cold snap that breaks our backs
comes a day of the dead
less Dionysian in its ordinary
than its mid-autumn rival —
more a royal reordering
of graves and grave-goods:
a time for laying flowers
and making peace with the dead.

Among birches and gravestones
inside a forgotten, tumbled wall
holding the hundred houses
of fallen warriors,
recalled preachers,
and goodwives bewidowed
I bring a trio of schoolboys
to meet their forgotten founders.

One comes from loyalty,
two come for the mystery,
all brim with curiosity
shivering in the cold.

In sleet and arrow-swift gale
under darkness and twilight
we hold conference and pay court
give honor to the dead they knew not;
yet the youths are pleased
to answer the inquiries
of the restful, remembering dead.

It is my great privilege
to stand here as their translator,
speaking out loud their questions,
returning again their answers.

We make the traditional offerings —
apples, and cheese.
A little wine would be welcome,
but no, I’m on duty,
and the boys, distracted,
have other matters on their minds.

The loyal boy does his tasks,
efficiently,
unquestioning,
plebeian lictor carrying the fasces.

The curious ones, though,
play along with the game,
bright-eyed and eager
explaining more and more
to our invisible hosts,
standing as the very black doors
of their turf-roofed homes.

Today’s visit succeeds
for their own fathers
lie in earth-walled houses of their own
and now perhaps,
these rowdy schoolboys
have learned another language…
or maybe two.

II. Concordia
It is easier to make peace with the dead;
forgiveness comes readily to lips
long mined by the roots of grass
and the yew by the magistrate’s memorial.
The dead feed the worm and the mole,
and dine on the occasional lily
or veteran’s spangled flag.
Their lives are different — slower —
more green and gray than red and yellow.

Nonetheless there is peace to be made:
neighbors to greet with gifts,
rivals to hug with sincere embraces,
(at least til the next real or imagined slight)
joyous passions to invigorate
with hearty backslapping
and perspiring brows:
sweaty with the work of reconciliation.

(ideally, the affection of the heart
should be sincere:
suspicious handshakes now
lead to long knives in the morning.)

Today we’ll define the in-crowd:
speak gratitude to family and friends,
gift-wrap our acquaintances and rivals,
hold out the empty hand to enemies,
putting on broad smiles
while keeping the eyes hard.

And yet — goodwill is infectious,
contagious, easily transmissible
by handshakes and hugs and smiles:
all the reminders of Love’s germination.

Save up the competition for afternoon:
trust the warm embraces of rivals
and ignore their eyes —
they will be as soft as yours
if they observe the day properly,
and rebellious custom rules them.

Meet enemies in the open squares
under the orchards where the apple tree
begins to send forth the promise of cider
and make your truces for spring through autumn.

Share cheese and wine then,
with friends called home from hard exile,
read Ovid aloud and delight in change
that bears friends back into friendships
and makes a kindly, well-meaning peace
throughout your whole district —
a ward enlarged to hold the whole world.

At twilight, rest briefly in a loved one’s arms;
share a simple meal
and dwell in the dimness
before the dawn, before the spring.
That’s what peace is for, after all:
a rest from winter’s salt and ice,
comforted in a beloved’s breath.

III. Terminalia
Friendships established and foes befriended,
the boundary becomes visible,
the tangible divide in the world
between the assembly, and the out-wall.
We know who the babblers are;
they do not speak with a native’s tongue,
though they wear our cloth;
and others dress in foreigner’s garb
yet their faces frame our kinsmen’s eyes!

We shall know them by their creations:
for the tribe hammers and knits itself,
weaves itself together from chaos,
wields the hammer, steadies the anvil,
ages the wine in the vats they shaped,
presses the curds and cures out the cheese,
gathers apples to the cider mill,
shapes the tankards on the potter’s wheel.

Divided frontiers make refuges:
a stage here, a grove of beeches there;
a salt marsh where a heron once stood;
a fire-pit in an old forest.

We are a kingdom without a king,
a tribe of shamans and priestesses,
a holy people without a god.
Yet we have our boundaries and borders,
our growing edges and high stone walls,
customs officials, and I.N.S.

These become our barbed-wire fences,
the place where compromise emerges,
the place where city and country end,
and wilderness appears to heal us.

Shall I come with my passport impressed,
or will I cross by stealthy method?
The cartographer and surveyor
lay meridiens invisible
to disconnect and divide the world —
this is mine now, and that I can take.

Find a holiness in boundary,
spirituality in frontiers:
and crossing over from here to there
can stretch the sinews of compassion.

Who has not felt the fluttering heart,
the hesitation at the checkpoint,
the stomach in the throat at the gate?
We stand at the door and cross over,
enter wildness and strange nations
and enlarge what the heart compasses:
we sense anew what our home might be.

The heart’s four chambers are large enough
to hold whole kingdoms of dignity;
and they can scarcely hold one village
if the Spirit closes tight enough.
Today, let all my gates be open;
let the barbed wire and mines be cleared —
today let me welcome in the whole world.

4 comments

  1. I Love Andrew’s Blog!

    Dear Andrew,

    I love your blog. It’s informative and fun. And I can read your poetry any time, day or night.

    My blog, More Uninteresting Drivel, is less informative and fun. But I’m just getting started. So there!

    Your pal,
    Ben

  2. I Love Andrew’s Blog!

    Dear Andrew,

    I love your blog. It’s informative and fun. And I can read your poetry any time, day or night.

    My blog, More Uninteresting Drivel, is less informative and fun. But I’m just getting started. So there!

    Your pal,
    Ben

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