"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Monday, March 28, 2011

So many times we misremember poems.
For years I thought Frost's "Mending Wall" had spelt
those upper, sun-spilt object lessons 'bowlders' --
at least that's how they were on page two twelve
of Untermeyer's sixth, combined edition.
Or take the different ways the high school students
-- fulfilling arcane AP class requirements
in hopes of IBDs, the Ivy League,
then ABDs (or even Ph.D.s) --
have mangled EB's villanelle "One Art."
I posted one the other day from Youtube:
"ThePrancingPainter" with her turtleneck
that matched her lipstick (not her horn-rimmed glasses);
a task she "had to do for English class."
She belted out the 'is': "IS no disaster,"
then "where it was you meant to visit" ['travel!'],
and worst of all the final line, when after
a "Write it" flaccid as a Kellogg's cornflake
(floating in a bowl and taking movies?)
the final overwhelming, universal
catastrophe was shot down with the "A"
her teacher (she feels certain) ought to give her
for memorizing such a dorky poem.
In short, she didn't really bowl me over.
And yet. And yet. I cannot look inside her,
or see the grandma fifty-nine years hence
remove her horn-rimmed glasses to look back
on losses yet unlisted, milk yet spilt,
and think of when she stood before the camera
and said the words, although she can't remember
just how that poem went, or what the name was
that awful teacher had, who'd been so nasty
one January morning nine years after --
to the day it was -- he'd lost his Dad.

17-20 January 2011

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