Wednesday, November 25, 2009
On Monday, my poetry teacher and mentor, my dear friend, Jack Myers passed away. Jack was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts in 1941, and despite decades of living in Texas, he never lost his charming New England accent. I remember fondly once in class when Jack wanted to read us some poems by Galway Kinnell. He introduced one poem that he said was one of his favorites, a poem whose title he pronounced "The Beer." When Jack started reading this poem about a furry creature (a bear) tracking across the snow, we couldn't stop laughing. Jack was a generous, kind, and patient teacher, and an incredible poet. During his poetry career, he was selected by Seamus Heaney for the National Poetry Series. His poems have been described as a fusion of Eastern influences and Jungian psychology, with a sincere grounding in working-class values and rich irony. I think that's very, very true. Below are a few of my favorite poems by Jack.
I've pumped up the air mattress
with little puffs of breath, just enough
so I can float.
That's very interesting, but not enough
to make me permanently happy.
If I had something bigger and invisible
to blow into,
I wouldn't need the raft.
The Optimist, The Pessimist, and The Other
One believes the cup of desire
is studded with jewels
that turn out to be holes
he pours his desires through.
The other, who has been through this,
desires to pour forth his story
again and again, as if somewhere
there were a hole in it.
And still another, who seems quite ordinary,
sees the cup of desire is not out there, but within.
He says, so what if it has holes in it.
In Bagdabastan This is a Fruit
In Bagdabastan this is a fruit.
It looks strange.
We don't want it.
It eases stubbornness with its stubbornness
because it has absorbed the lesson of the rain
that softened our rugged landscape into grains of sand.
We have all the fruit we want.
We do not need this fruit.
Inside it has many luscious seeds.
In truth, it is made entirely of seeds
packed together, yet each seed is kept
separate, wrapped as if for a long journey.
There are no long journeys here.
We do not need this fruit.
That is why I offer you this fruit.
Where we live we already have it.
In fact, we cultivate it with great care
though it would do just as well without us.
We don't want this fruit.
We will do without it.
If I may say so that is now impossible
since it is already something you so greatly oppose.
If I take it away you will never be rid of it.
For the last time, we do not want this fruit.
It is not something we require.
Fine, then I will leave it here with you,
for we have found it is something we cannot do without.
If you accept it, you won't know how you've done without it.
Then you'll be able to do without it.