My Two Most Meaningful Poems

In fourth grade, Mr. Alsop at Switlik School in Jackson, New Jersey assigned me and my classmates the task of writing an original poem.  He suggested various possible topics, among which was a grand sailing ship, the one that I chose for my verse.

The resulting masterpiece ran thus:

      Look at that great big ship.
      It reminds me of my friend’s dog Skip.
      He would be fine
      Without a spine.

In reviewing my offering, Mr. Alsop praised me for my skill with rhyme.  He soon turned, however, to some suggestions relating to the meaning and direction of my poem.  He submitted that perhaps a poem about a ship should not divert its attention to invertebrate canines, who, incidentally, would be anything but “fine.”

This composition from my early youth has as its counterpart in significance a piece that I wrote six years ago–thirty-eight years after my experience with Mr. Alsop, twenty-six after my studies with the poet Jon Volkmer at Ursinus College, and two full decades after the influence of John Taggart during my graduate studies at Shippensburg University.  I posted it on this blog just over three years ago.

I would not necessarily put forth this poem as a good one; instead, I regard it as precisely the kind of poetry I had hoped to compose one day.

Waters

Awareness is as water from the sky:
It mists, condenses, falls; it runs, collects.
A droplet–the perceptions of a fly;
And scattered puddles–beastly intellects.
A lake contains the ponderings of a sage;
And tribal teachings rush the river’s flow.
As tributaries merge from age to age,
The oceans swell with all that billions know.
As sunlight warms the seas, they yield the air
A portion back of their dear conscious worth.
And heaven briefly holds its sacred share
Before the rains fall back upon the earth.
     The countless drops that think themselves their own:
     One substance in the waking world, alone.

9 thoughts on “My Two Most Meaningful Poems

  1. The first poem sets in motion the heart of a budding poet. Rhyme. Line. Effort. What a prized possession to have your poem from fourth grade! I do love the second one much better, though, but wiithout the first, the second may not have come to be. I think of good stewardship the way the water is shared on the earth. This part is my favorite:
    And heaven briefly holds its sacred share
    Before the rains fall back upon the earth.

  2. Well, I would venture to say that Mr. Alsop would be very proud of you, and if he is in that shared consciousness, I would venture to say that he is proud of you. I love this whole thing, but especially the progression from tiny to magnificent, and the description of corresponding intellect contained within each body of water – “the oceans swell with all that billions know.” Your poem prompts me to think about that notion – How much wisdom there is in a droplet of water, a puddle, a lake, an ocean… infinite, I am sure. The whole of the water cycle is conveyed with such reverence. Can humankind appreciate its sanctity the way you have here? Hope so.

  3. The first poem…how many of those I have read in my time. A great effort to treasure.
    The second poem…WOW! Water in nature is certainly one of my muses. What you have done here is beautiful and though-provoking.

    “And tribal teachings rush the river’s flow.
    As tributaries merge from age to age,” makes me think of my canoeing trips in high school and how the water changed as tributaries joined the river. How many people have traveled those same waters? Thanks for sharing!

  4. I hope you do not mind that I am practically howling over the first poem and this gem regarding Mr. Alsop: “Perhaps a poem about a ship should not divert its attention to invertebrate canines, who, incidentally, would be anything but ‘fine.'” – just priceless! But the poet was learning the craft – the effort was gold. Then this amazing metaphor, various waters representing levels of awareness and knowing so deep and ethereal that it boggles the mind…also a metaphor for being alive, existing, and the sacred nature of it. I keep returning to the last lines about the drops in the ocean thinking they are individuals without realizing they are part of the whole living ocean… itself a symbol for life. The drops are never, ever alone… ok, I will stop here, as I recall what my high school English teacher once wrote on my paper about a poem: “Exhaustive analysis!” Thank you for the laughter and the pondering of many deep things…

    1. I do mind either the howling or the exhaustive analysis; on the contrary, I am honored. Thank you so much for reading my post so perceptively and commenting so insightfully. I am deeply grateful.

  5. Is it wrong that I actually like the non-sequitur of the original poem? It brought something unexpected — which I want most of my poems to include! It’s oddly sophisticated.
    And the beautiful bridge to your adult poem, which is just lovely. The two opening lines are my favorite part, especially “It mists, condenses, falls; it runs, collects.” … it has the rhythm of a song..

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