Wednesday, April 22, 2009

TO MY POETRY STUDENTS

—The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.

Do not be offended if I don't remember your names.My children are as varied as the voices of the wind.
Do not assume that because I don't call you by name,
that I do not know you. For I remember all of you,
the poems you write & all your faces shining
with the first faltering words of hope.
Do not rage against the wind or lack of memory
as if the sun had risen prematurely at daybreak
painted with rosy yearning, only to find the clouds
had forgotten how to properly mourn the tragedies 
of a world drowning in the vagaries of the heart.
For once I stood alone with the voices of the wind,
my own song hanging at the end of its chord,
like Munch's silent scream echoing off the canvas,
a nocturne of loneliness, an etude seeking rebirth
before I called it poetry, before it called for me.
Sleep returns lost memory in minute increments
of time swaddled in the supplication of blue solace
unburdened by prayer or the length of the road
set adrift in the traceless grasses' slow current.
To love words requires only the longevity of a mind
that is part redwood, & part bristlecone pine
& a threshold  for a mouth that is part estuary,
& part river to address the worded islands of the world.
Remember to write of what is visible and seen
pay homage to the slender names rooted in oak,
lichen & moss, reed & bracken fern, lupine wolf  & moon.
Treat your poems like long lost kith and kin.
Someday when you can forgive their waywardness
they will be Diogenes' lanterns on dark, restless nights.

4/22/09


There are two Dogenes: Diogenes of Sinope, founder of the Cynic School of Philosophy, 4th c. BC, who used to stroll about Athens and ancient Greece with a lit oil lamp in full daylight; when asked what he was doing, he would answer, "I am just looking for a human being" (or an "honest man").
Then there's the 3rd c. philosopher, Diogenes Laërtius, who wrote:
The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.
Nothing endures but change.

And there's the rare yellow wild California lily, Diogenes' Lantern.

I invoke all three.

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