Monday, July 21, 2008

Bookends- two poems

Book ends

Home Coming, 1968

The siren wails and flashing lights precede
The marching bands,
And main street filled with laughing eyes
And madly waving hands.
Our lives were simple statements then,
in purple crape and gold,
And only life beyond the quad was
Rumored to grow old.

Reflections on Book Ends
I was thinking about a new poem called the Landscape of Life and I thought back to a much earlier poem written around 1967. I don’t have a title for the poem but the primary thoughts are a depiction of a homecoming parade and football game during college days.
I’m thinking of a morning in the early fall of 1967. The air smells clean and the sunshine is brilliant but the temperature and humidity made it pleasant to be outside. I am wearing new cloths which included a wool sports coat, tweed I think, with a shirt and tie. This was homecoming and we all had dates for most of the day’s activities, parade, game and dance.
The thing I am trying to get at now is the sense that time was suspended. On a day like that nothing could penetrate this little world. A line from EE Cumings’ ‘The Cambridge Ladies” comes to mind? “………..the Cambridge ladies do not care, above Cambridge if sometimes in its box of sky lavender and cornerless, the moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy……..Well, at Tennessee Tech that day the rest of the world could have blown up , starting probably in Viet Nam and it would be dealt with after the football game! My poem says that ‘only life beyond the quad is rumored to grow old. A little facetious perhaps but true, also in many respects. A line from a Randy Newman song comes to mind; ‘southern boys from Lsu, come in dumb and go out that way to.: a little harsh but some Tech men I knew would probably fit that description. Then again, we were young and in an environment which pretty much fosters that life for a short segment of ones life, so why not relax and enjoy. One thought; the line about life beyond the quad in the early poem. Even that thought I just added to the poem a couple of weeks ago. When I actually wrote the poem I doubt if I would have even been interested in the concept of growing old!
No major point here, just an interesting juxtapose between that poem and that day of endless possibilities and the poem I am currently working on 40 years later. Now my focus is on limitations, restrictions and decline on almost every front, but young person, take heart. If you don’t actually have an older human being to talk too you may not really understand that we are still the same people on the inside as our 20 year old version, It is still me in here after all these years (another song…paul simon………..still crazy, after all these years”) If the truth be told, there are some days now in my later years that could be described as like that day in September, of 67 and visa versa, I do remember days back then that were horrible ! Life usually gives us a fair number of both. Our conditioning , however, often trains us to attach the negatives ones to our older years. Ageism is alive and well.

Landscape of Life-2008

It is a strange and unsettling thing to be moving
out of the scene-
to watch as my cohorts take their places around the edges
and recesses, blurred and out of focus- 4
We have become incidental figures in our own painting.
Nameless and of no particular import,
Like the passage no one notices at first glance-
perhaps even the artist has forgotten ? 8
After all these years, only an expert can offer interpretation as
to what we meant and who we were -
We have become a historical detail or even worse,
An obscure, art-history test questions ? 12
It is dark in this corner, in shadow and undertone-
But, I say, it is only for a moment that I stay.
I look back now and see fading glimpses
Of the the landscape of my life 16
And, if I allow them in, melancholy and regret
Will be constant companions-
I take captive those thoughts, with some success, and remember that I
was created by One who lives in unapproachable light- 20
He is the painting and the Artist, the Beginning
And the end-
He is the Light and it’s source, the focal
Point where life begins. 24

And yet, knowing this my old eyes still search out lies
And how I wish I could go back-
To create worlds with my own hands and
Circumscribe their limits. 28
How can this be, that I would mourn
My failing hands and eyes
When I am close to a Kingdom now
where they both will be obsolete. 32

It is a strange, unsettling thing to venture
From the known-
To walk in light, as He is light
Yet still be in my room. 36

It’s much too late for this line of thought
And I still have brushes to clean -
I’ll leave my questions for the existentialist
Down the street- 40
He exists, I hear, so perhaps he doesn’t worry with age;
But, as for me, I can live with my questions-
pain can be good for the soul. God knows,
And , besides, joy comes in the morning. 44

R. Tom Hudgens

1 comment:

Samantha said...

i LOVE this!!! and the description you've written about homecoming is so vivid-- and the second bookend is bittersweet. love it.