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Another College Poem

I at least partially don’t agree with it now. Or call it perilously close to a weasel way out of obediance. But perhaps that was my point.
1:39 AM 2/12/88

Bereft

So would you, if Christ were sitting right here
Be doing this same without any fear
that he’d think you a fool to be watching this face
and if you had doubts he’d remove every trace

 And you’d know by his voice
 That you had not a choice
  But to do just what he had said

Yes, Yes, I know, it’s true, I agree.
But he is not here to tell it to me
 So thus I must ask myself this:

 Is this face lovely?
 Is this face godly?
 Does this face cause you to sin?

 And sir, my answer:

 This face, no perfection
 But with some inspection
 The sin part is not brought within

And if every face, reflecting a sin
Must be removed, then look again
That other face, of which you view
Must go as well, it must go, too.
 So what have we left?
 We now are bereft,
  Of all things that can entertain

 Can we all then keep
 Our dreams, yet not sleep?
  I hope so, again and again

And if there’s no cure,
we’ll find out for sure,
When we’re dead, Ma’am, when we are dead

The title references an Escher artwork title.

Jamsco circa 20 years ago: College Student, Poet, Camper, Mister Self-Pity.
Three More Worlds (Or Maybe Four)

As I gaze I see a sturdy wooden door,
A door that has trouble shutting, a sticker on it,
And finger stains smears on the window section

Through the window I can see
the snowy hillside and some trees, some pine, some bare
Faintly lit by the nearly full moon.

And in the reflection of the window
I can see the yellow orange glow
of the lantern behind me
Partially silhouetting and partially revealing my face
The face of a man contemplating.
Contemplating what it would be like to have a girlfriend.

Another one from college days . . .

Private

Imagine,
Above 50 Percentile Students,
Professors who care,
Smaller Classrooms,
And Bigger Tuitions

Here we learn about Neitzche and Erasmus and Durer.

Meet your spouse,
Sing in choir,
Learn Generalizations

Your Vocation isn’t everything,
You need coffee table knowledge,
You need chapel and informal discussions
A sign on a door that says,
“This is not a public entrance”
And the reaction
“I’m not a public,
I paid ten thousand dollars to come here.”

I found this poem in one of my old college notebooks. It’s date was at the top and would put it during my freshman year at Bethel. I remember the situation that inspired this poem, but I don’t remember writing it. Also: I have no idea to what the first line is referring.

1/24/87

“Like Iron Maiden Playing Raquetball”
I end up in the oddest places.

How about when I find myself in a mob of screaming people
 Yelling at apparently nothing,
  For no apparent reason,
Until I wind up screaming also.

But there are querks of peace in this place.
 An innocent girl rushing to show her friend
  the ring that she was just given
 Or listening to classical music on the way home, or
Knowing that while all of this noise is going on
There is one person
 sitting quietly on the other side.
Maybe she is thinking about me.
But no,
Not in this noise.

Nevers Dam Trail Again 

 Two years ago
 As they were looking down the long pathway
  Twenty feet above swamp
   Or would you call it “Wetlands?”
  On both sides
The family heard frogs.
And now they hear them again
 They didn’t hear them last year – maybe they came a week too early
  Or too late
But again they have difficulty seeing them.

There have been changes since their first visit.

This time neither the husband or the wife has anyone on their back
 Since all the of kids can walk
  Although the youngest still asks to be held
   From time to time

Since the last visit the family has changed homes, cars, churches and they have gained a child
They have made their way through different kinds of swamps
 With the help of others
Including the Engineer who, many years before, had created a path for them.
  They remain thankful

So this year the father decides that the idea of bringing the kids down
 The steep rocky, loosely soiled bank
closer to the waters
 and the frogs
Is not a temptation to resist
But a challenge to accept
 The mother is not so sure

So, starting with the oldest
 But soon the younger kids want to come to
The father brings the kids
 One by one
Down to the shore
 All of them enjoy it but two:
  The youngest,
who doesn’t like standing on uneven ground
  And the mother
   Who doesn’t enjoy holding the youngest
    While standing on uneven ground

There they watch the frogs
They look into the water
They spot a crayfish
 Which the father
  It takes him two attempts
 Grabs and shows the family
  To the great pleasure of all
   Besides the youngest, the mother, and the crayfish
They head back up to the path
 This is another
  One person at a time
 Challenge – happily accepted
And soon
 Once they had gotten the rocks and sand out of their shoes
The were back on their yearly pilgrimage to the beatified river

By the grace of the Engineer, the family is indeed making it

Have I mentioned that all of these places described herein are real and come recommended by me?

Split Rock Beach

The trail in the forest brings the family out
To the rock beach
And immediately the kids
Facing the smaller bay
Rush to the shore

They thirst for a connection to the great lake
And they find it
They can throw rocks in it
So they do. They are satisfied
For the time being
But the Father is not; He is looking out to the island
The small two acre island that is about a minute’s walk away
If one could walk on water
He wants a connection to that. He finds none.
He looks around
To see eight to ten other people near them
Finding their own connection
He wonders
How many people have this week stood on this rock beach?
One hundred?  Two hundred?
And how many people have been out to the island this year?
Five? Ten?
The father wants a connection to the island.

He looks around and notes
with a little dismay
that his kids are no longer around.

They are off to his right
now climbing up a steep rocky slope.
He leaves his wife
Who is herself nursing their youngest
And chases after them
Boys! Be careful!
Maybe you should come down!
But they are lost in their new attempts at connection
He climbs up after them
They might fall
but he sees that they probably will not

As they reach the top of the cliff, the second oldest calls out
Look! The Lighthouse!
And sure enough
Across the water, past the island and above the trees
There stands the yellow national monument.

They look at it for a few minutes and
At the father’s suggestion
Take the path back to Mom.

If it is creatively made,
Perhaps a connection that only 200 people make with the big water weekly is good enough.

A day late again – This poem describes one of my favorite spots in the entire world. Our family has made this decision once a year of the last six years.

Artist Point Decision

You have parked your car
at the entrance to the point
in the expansive blessedly-free parking
   provided by the wonderful little town of Grand Marais
and you have walked towards the lake
 past the Corps of Engineers building
 and along the short path
  flanked on either side by tall, berry laden bushes
and now you can see it’s churning waves.

You walk up the four or five steps to the cement path
 And look past the rock sculptures
  That creative people have labored to build
   (Karems? caroms?)
And now you have a choice.

You turn right, and see
Close up
flat rock,
(This way is very approachable)

All you need do is get your kids down to them
 The cement path is three or feet above the rock
  And it takes some doing to get down to it
And then they can run, and jump over puddles,
and see if they can climb up the rocky slopes
and make their way along the maze farther away from the decision point
 with dead ends and narrow passes
out towards the lighthouse

You see perhaps twenty people
 In ones, twos, threes and fours
making their way out to that landmark. 
 Risking their life stepping across the Very Narrow Passage way
with a twenty foot drop into the lake on either side 
  and only a single chain fence to keep you from falling.
And some are disappointed to find they can’t climb up the ladder to the light.

That’s one way – and most go there. 

This is because if you turn left you see
 Immediately in front of you
  (perhaps ten feet away)
A 4 foot high small rocky cliff
 Which looks a little imposing
And directly behind that is a wall of trees
 Which doesn’t look very penetrable,
But if you try it,
 If you brave the little cliff and climb it
You will see
 (off to your left again)
A path into the woods.
 And this path is not challenging
  It is well worn
And crisscrosses with many others
 Although you may have to duck under branches once or twice
  Or three times or four times
 And you may need to climb up a ten foot rock slope 
And
 Perhaps after a five minute, pleasant walk through the woods
  Be careful, there is a straight drop 30 feet into the lake
   if you bear left too far
Soon you will emerge out into open flat rock
 If you go at the right time of day or year you might be alone
Where you can stare out in all directions and see nothing
 (or very little)
But open lake, the eastern side of the north shore and the forest you just came from

Here your kids can put their feet in puddles
 (warmer and safer than Lake Superior)
And you can have a snack.

So when you get the chance and you are looking left and right
Which way will you choose?

As for me and my house, we often choose both.

My Post a couple days ago reminded me of a poem I had written after our last visit.

At The Arch

The reader is aware
 I am sure
Of the St. Louis Arch
 Which is actually named the Jefferson Expansion National Monument.

But did you know that your two-year-old can walk up to it and touch it?
This landmark visible on travel advertisements, and quarters and from miles away.
Did you know that all he had to do was walk up the grand steps
 After you park by the mighty river
  At the steeply sloping parking lot that made the Dad nervous
   And glad for good brakes
Make his way up to its base
And lay his hand on it?

Did you know that your family can picnic directly underneath it?
 And still be 50 feet from anyone else?

Sometimes the grandiose is surprisingly reachable.

One of the blessings that God gives us through the creativity of his creatures is this:
Little Fingers can touch Mighty Works

This evening, my oldest son (JamCar) came up to me and showed me (and sang for me) a song he had written. I present it to you in full:

What do I Hear?

Chorus:
What do I hear,
Oh, what do I hear?

Verse 1:
Is it a kitten meowing,
or a tiger growling?

(Chorus)

Verse 2:
Is it a fareis wheel turning 
or a wolf dog howling?

Now you may be wondering – how old is your son? Surely the author of such an accomplished piece of work must be in high school, if not college. Nay, says Jamsco, my oldest son has not reached his tenth year.

If you would see into the mind of this artist, I can tell you that he pointed out that he wanted to express in each verse the contrast of something pleasant and something frightening. Also, his muse for writing this song was his youngest brother (age 4) asking the titular question at the playground. 

Please note also the nontraditional (some may call it avant garde) spelling of the word “Ferris” 

Barn Bluff

Don’t think
 As you are looking down onto the mighty river
  Through the elms and oaks
 From your picnic spot
  Under the King Oak
   Without peer
 With the knowledge that you are in Minnesota
That you are looking east
 
Nor that
 When you look the other way
across the blanket
  past your wife and children
 To what’s on the other side of the bluff
  Town blocks and schools and cars.
You would be looking west when you turned
 
Heading down river to the ragged cliffs
 on the pleasant
  fairly straight
 age old walking path
and heading upriver to the overlook of the downtown
 and the big river-crossing bridge
will not bring you south and north, respectively.

Also:
Don’t think
at the end of October
 knowing that you are in Minnesota 
that you have lost your last chance
for a River fall day trip

For the mighty river doesn’t always flow south.
And there is such a thing as well above average temperatures.

Both Mississippi and November may surprise you. 

Sometimes Nature breaks what we think are its rules. As does it’s Creator.

(But yes, I know this is a day late)

Outside Which Radisson Hotel?

You are standing inside a 200 meter circle
 The edge of the circle is a 5 meter high platform for sitting
 The center is a
complex and everchanging
fountain
This circle is a monument to the Union of European Nations
 You feel
  As an American 
  A little left out.

You are facing away from the center of the circle
 But inside its perimeter
Looking towards the impressive, new Hotel
 Which a nervous couple entered and was glad that its employees spoke English

Turn a little to the left
 (We’ll go clockwise)
And you see the grand entrance to a significant train station
 Which is very large and clean inside.
 You are standing near the entry point for many visitors from other European countries.
  Daily.
A little more to the left and you see steps
 Going down
To a significant subway station
 The subway here is called the metro
 This station is the junction of three different underground trains

A little more to the left
(now you have turned 90 degrees)
And you see a tall wall which hides construction from the road beyond.
Cross this road and you will see a familiar looking building which has a familiar looking sign
 If you look carefully the sign says in Cyrillic – “Macdonalds”
  This was the first place the nervous couple went, because
   Unlike other well seasoned travelers
  They wanted something familiar

Another turn to the left and you see the disorganized random parking lot for the train-station
 Actually you have been looking beyond this for awhile
 But we will disregard it
  And keep turning.

Another turn to the left
 (now you have turned 180 degrees)
and you see a park.
 It is filled with trees and benches and the remains of a bonfire
 This would be a pleasant area to walk through if it weren’t so filled with litter
  And party leftovers

For the remaining 180 degrees you see river
 The primary river for this capital city
 The river for which this city was named
  The couple toured this river with their college choir
   before they were a couple
    they were both less and more nervous then.

And when you have made your way almost full circle
You see a bridge, with impressive architecture, interesting to walk across
 Where you might note a police officer tossing his cigarette bud into the river
 Where you can see
  From opposite sides
 A University and a hotel which look very similar
  And a restaurant that looks like a Viking ship
   What?
This bridge might be a good way to visit the city center
 Rich with history and religion and shopping
  You might find very cute dresses for two new sisters

But don’t think
Now that you have come full circle
That you have seen it all. 
No. Try looking down.
You see that a three year old girl is holding your hand.
 She has blonde hair
  They kept it short at the baby home.
 She is your daughter, but you don’t know her.
And since she speaks a different language, you may wonder what she is thinking
 Clearly she is interested in the dancing waters of the fountain.
  Indeed she wanted to climb into it.
 And she has looked in wonder at much she has seen in the last twenty-four hours
 And she seems to be cheerful, but 
Does she have any real idea what is happening?
 And to the degree that she does, does she have truly joyful feelings about it?

My suggestion is that you pray
 To the God who made both her and you
Pray for peace for her and wisdom for yourself

This poem I wrote a few years ago as a response to a song whose lyrics (or a part thereof) I read on another blog. I would show these lyrics but they are offensive enough that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the PG rating strived for here at the Responsible Puppet. Suffice it to say that they describe a situation of a young woman who has had a hard time dealing with a breakup of an unhealthy relationship, yet is putting up a bold face, in a fairly crude, angry and explicit way.

Response to the Dark Song

My hope at hearing darkened word,
(Your song sung deep and deeply heard,
And sharing saddened thought and mind),
Is through your song your wrong you’d find.

Expressing thoughts and once expressed,
Repent, you might, like deeds confessed,
And not return and get ye passed,
And one more victory amassed.

But no, I fear your song holds true,
To what is yet availing you,
Instead of shrinking back from sin,
You cling to it and hold it in.

And then you hope to keep the pride,
Of knowledge that is not denied,
The truth: you are no Innocent,
Who has no mark nor tear nor dent.
 
Since you’ve been hurt, you wish it true,
You won’t be fooled again, not you,
And you, not fooled, won’t share the blame,
And innocents can’t say the same.

But give some thought to what you might,
Become if you don’t climb from night,
And what if next it’s you who dents,
The hearts of pre-fooled innocents?

So break the Circle here today,
Walk straight toward the One True Way, 
And climb the ladder one more wrung,
And let a sweeter song be sung.

Devil’s Tower Picnic Advice 

 If you are looking for spot for a picnic at Devil’s Tower.

 (Let’s say you’ve already made the 1.3 mile hike around the National Monument
  After driving in from the Black Hills
 And the kids are hungry
 And you’d like to sit
 And perhaps you want a spot that is somewhat secluded
  i.e. Not on the picnic grounds
 And you don’t want to have to walk far from your car
  Because, like I said, the kids are hungry)

Well, then, here is my advice to you:

Do you see the Log Cabin Information Center in front of you?

Turn fully around and you’ll see
 Just beyond the parking lot.
Tall grasses and short trees on a level above the cars
 Away from the trails.

Perhaps twenty feet into this dry meadow you will find a suitable flat area
  (Sit in the shade of a tree if it’s warm)
Where a blanket will cover the tall grasses
  Which will make for a soft seat
 Where you have a solitary view
 of the tall vertical Wyoming natural oddity, and
  Where, when sitting, you will see no sign or mark of Humanity
. . .
Okay, that’s how I remember it, anyway

Jamsco’s Response to

‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ by Robert Frost

 

Nature’s first green is gold,
  Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaves a flower,
  But only so an hour,
Then leaf sudsides to leaf,
  SoEden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day,
  Nothing gold can stay.

 

That’s a little depressing isn’t it? I’m of a more cheery mind:

 

But there is other gold,
  That you can later hold,
Another flower awaits,
  And more on other dates,
You cannot make it stay,
  Yet cling to it today,
From Gold to new gold dance,
  Keep Eden’s permanence.

 

And I would have liked to put in the more important idea that in Heaven all Gold will stay, but it didn’t fit in the form.

Can you figure out where this takes place?

Nevers Dam Trail

“What is that noise?”
 asked the mother,
  Carrying the one-year-old in the snuggly
  The Father was carrying the 2-year-old on his back
   And three were walking with them
 As they walked down the trail
 On the not-so-warm spring day

It sounded like large loud crickets.

The family continued on the trail walking through a swamp of noise.
They were pleased with the qualities of the path for many reasons
 The trail kept them fifteen feet above the water
  Cold, dark and murky
 The trail was straight and well marked
  The children knew where to walk so that they would not fall down and in.
 The trail was even and not muddy
 And the trail was an easy path to the great
(and in this case Wild)
river, which was their destination
  (Thankfully not the Jordan, though named after a saint)

“Oh,” said the father, finally, “They’re frogs”
They looked down at the many swirling, swimming, singing reptiles.
 They were too small and hidden for the children to see.
 The father resisted the temptation to bring the kids down the steep slope to see them

They kept walking through the noisy swamp
thankful to the Engineer who, many years before, had created this path.

They would soon make their escape from the dangers behind,
 Through the noisy, dirty wetlands,
To the clean, strong waters of the river,
broadening in front of them.

They began to grow in their confidence that they would make it. 

==

Want more? Here’s the sequel to this poem, Nevers Again.

Frontenac

The Family huddled
Against the
Yellow, unevenly chiseled, limestone
Cliff wall
And the father wondered:
Would they be safe and dry if it was raining?
(It wasn’t, of course. The weather was peaceful, pleasant and perfect
and the cliff was sheltering us from the wind)
To answer their question, they looked up and saw Rock.
No.
They would not be precipitated.

So they turned around and looked
Out through the trees
at the big river far below. It moved slow.
What if they could see sheets of rain pounding on it?
What if they could hear thousands of drops
pattering on thousands of yellow and red leaves?
What if they could intimately witness the wetness
And still stay high and dry?

But then they looked to their left and saw a slope of rock and moss
Aimed down, directly at them
And a crack near the face of the cliff which would act as a funneling trough
Straight toward them
In the event of rain.

(In this crack they found a large fuzzy caterpillar.
The father took a stick to gently move it
To prevent the certainty of it’s being drowned
In the event of rain)
This being done
They looked back at the rock slope to their left
and decided that this would not be a good place to stand.

Maybe if they moved to the right a little.

(Okay so wordpress screwed up my html and the spacing of this poem got screwed up. But I sort of like the random effect. Just pretend this is High Poetry and I meant it to be like this. This poem is about a park in Door County) 

At Cave Point

It was a relief

      40 or 50 feet past the imposing sign that said:

      “Danger – Cliffs!”

when the high path that we were on

      With our children

      Who were not skilled with step

bent down closer to the flat uneven rocks

      which gripped the Great Lake

and we could let go of the small grasping hands

      of 3 who had experienced healthy fear

            as they peered over and saw how far above the pounding waves
they stood.

Now that we were much lower our boys were crawling around
the rough rocks

      And gazing out at the endless undulating body of water

      And noting with interest the claw of a crawfish

      And crawling in
the cave from which the Park got its title

Now they were free to explore and stare

      And crawl
through openings in the rock

      And ask hopeful,
thoughtful questions

      And consider the
Lake’s Depth and Breadth

And here is a rock I can add to the mass of the water

And what is the story behind this wine bottle cork that we
found?

And how much of this would we not be able to traverse if
the water level wasn’t so low?

We are comforted as we stand as a lone family,

We are guarded by the wall of trees standing behind us

      Like sentries

From all that we have escaped to get here

      So that we may experience peace.

But

In the back of our minds, we have the knowledge that

At the time of our departure

We will have to climb up and again pass by the cliffs

      And experience
the fear and momentary despair

            Of the
knowledge of certain death

            If one of
us is careless

                  And allows
our foot to slip

On the way to our van so we can drive away

We will just have to keep our children in hand.

 

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