Saturday, August 14, 2004

One Month Downstream with Thoreau

Not wanting to make any editorial comments over at that blog I’m channeling, err, transcribing, I’ll make them here. I started the Thoreau blog almost as a lark. I had picked up my copy of the Journals and had blogged a couple of the dates here. Then one insomniac midnight laying in bed I got the idea of Thoreau blogging his Journal. How cool!

So right then and there I decided I’d begin blogging the Journal for him (and yes, it had that kind of personal interaction). I feel his spirit intermingling with mine at times, probably because I’ve read that day’s entries in more than ten separate years.

More than a month into it though, I find myself transfixed each night by the Journals. It’s not just Thoreau the philosopher or naturalist or observer. But Thoreau the man that I am discovering. He can be as hard on himself as he is on the rest of us. He can also be as bigoted at times, especially in his comments on the Irish. It’s actually comforting to know and is fleshing out an idol into a friend.

But nevertheless he is nothing if not observant. Today I blogged his entry from 14-Aug-1859, an encounter with blue herons. It means something to me on a personal level, just because I can remember seeing a blue heron some time ago when canoeing the Concord River with my daughter.

I wrote a poem about that day, one of the few that I wrote when my daughter was a child. I was practicing not being a poet (attempting to be a regular kind of guy) back then and only a few poems trickled out. They are, of course, precious to me now. I so much wish I had written a poem a day about those days.

Watching a child grow every day is such an inspirational thing. I fear I wasted much of it on just being a father. I kid of course. If given the choice again, I’d be a father any day (Emmy, if you’re reading this. sorry for the maudlin behavior [I'll blame it on the Friday night Knob Creek]). But I still wish I tried being a poet for at least fifteen minutes a day. My bad! My very bad.

For this reason and others, I hesitate to present that poem here. It’s more a special memory than a poem, but in the Thoreauvian sense of full disclosure:

"the way that can be told is not the eternal way"

On the concord river
turtles sleep
on the bridges of dead branches

(stick-like heads draw skyward;
a leg here and there is perched in mid-air;
hard black shells are caked with sun-baked heiroglyphics)
as we float past,
father and daughter in old town canoes.
We are spanning

the green flood of generations.
In the great meadows a blue heron
skims the tall grass like an elegant form
of prehistoric electricity swimming
in the green air like water.
Landing on shore, we switch places;

you take the stern to guide the canoe.
Sometimes you scribble from side to side;
other times you doodle in wide circles.
But soon you right the canoe and paddle downstream,
trusting your own light strokes;
the water takes care of all the rest.


Geofhuth said...


Maybe it is that I am a father, once the father of just a girl (but now a father of a son as well), that I ignored poetry for many years as you did, that I wrote only a few poems during that time, that I've taken my children canoeing and discovered simple wonders on the way; but probably it is the poem itself, its delicate cadence, its attention to transformative details, how the spaces between the strophes are bridged with syntax and sense ("We are spanning/the green flood of generations" and "We switch places"), how your daughter writes and draws in the water that cannot really be changed; whatever it is this poem of yours hit me harder than any others. A fine piece that deserves notice and calls for our attention.

(In other news, I read a poem about my daughter and me at my recent Boston reading--tho neither she nor I is mentioned in the poem--and as I read it I realized I had a living breathing example of three stressed syllables in a row. Honest. Tell me if you want to see it.)


aum dada said...

Geoff, thanks much for the kind words. And ubetcha I want to see that poem with the three stressed syllables in a row, and more for the content, because u know I have my doubts about the stresses.