Yes! It’s Poetry Friday. But I want to be *sure* you get your daily dose of bad writing before we get to the good. San Jose State has published the 26th winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, and oh, the delicious horror of the poorly parsed sentence! Oh, the glorious abuse of the adjective! It’s good fun indeed.
“Flash Cards” by Rita Frances Dove.
Ms. Dove was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993-1995, the Laureate of Virginia until 2006. She reads with an expressive, controlled voice, and you can hear her poetry (and see Flashcards animated) on YouTube. Yay, internet! Keeping poetry sharing alive since… well, since before Google.
In math I was the whiz kid, keeper
of oranges and apples. What you don’t understand,
master, my father said; the faster
I answered, the faster they came.
I could see one bud on the teacher’s geranium,
one clear bee sputtering at the wet pane.
The tulip trees always dragged after heavy rain
so I tucked my head as my boots slapped home.
My father put up his feet after work
and relaxed with a highball and The Life of Lincoln.
After supper we drilled and I climbed the dark
— from Grace Notes, © 1989 W. W. Norton & Company, New York.
Read the remainder of this poem here.
Today’s poem is a bittersweet reminder of summer days. When I was a kid, summer meant …math. My father so wanted to produce a mathelete, and required me to recite my times tables to fifteen — from memory — and each day hearing his car come in the drive as he came home for lunch was a misery. I spent the morning pacing my room, chanting sums, and the afternoon dreading being sent back to relearn my thirteens. (Still can’t readily remember those. Thirteen, twenty six, thirty-nine, fifty-three…)
This unfortunate combining of math with a fear of punishment and a terror of revealing how stupid I was resulted in barely passing math grades for my entire life. It wasn’t until I finished college that I could lose myself in the fun of numbers for the first time, feeling relaxed and content doing long division down to the last zero, confident that at last, some things in life had definite right answers.
In my next life, I’m going to be Pythagoras. Who will you be?
Poetry Friday has come round once again to Big A, little a, who started it all.