Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Word from the Corner - Where There Were Steep Riverbanks (poem)

The Word from the Corner 
The feeling of Summer is here - a few days before it's official. These past few weeks, it's been so beautiful to be out in the day & evening, on these days before it gets too hot. Here's one that comes from South America but it felt like it came from my childhood growing up on the lakes & ponds in NW Pennsylvania. Written by Uruguayan poet Circe Maia, translated by Jesse Lee Kercheval. Enjoy summer.
PS Found this one on the Tracy K. Smith's podcast "The Slowdown". This is #136.
Where There Were Steep Riverbanks
by Circe Maia 

Once again the memory rises up
of the oar beating against the water. The river shines
and leaves tremble in the shade.

Wet hair, smiling eyes watching. Above
blue and sun and blue…watch the black
and broken tree trunks, listen to the water.

I still feel warm wood in my hand
and at every dull beat my blood makes
the oar sinks again in green cold and algae.

Like a stem, firm and green, June came rising.
There came from wind, from love
and life
red wings in flight, the days of summer.

Row, rower
and do not listen to the black
beat of the oar.

The oar strokes cut time into pieces,
equal pieces, almost clockwork
and all you think about is where each is falling,
a beat and another beat together as the day flies.

Look how the white hours grow black
and the wanting to stop them almost hurts.

Blows fall on the soul, cold and ashen,
the blows of the oar on the water.

And behind, you can see the flat surface of the river,
the face of summer, blue and smooth.
This poem was translated by Jesse Lee Kercheval.
"Where There Were Steep Riverbanks," from THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by Circe Maia 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Word from the Corner - My First Home (poem)

The Word from the Corner
posted on Facebook North Andover Poets Corner 

Thursday before last, I got a text from Justin Smalley, Director of the North Andover HS Band:
"Last year I read a poem for the seniors titled last days. Was wondering if you had anything original that you have written that would be appropriate for the last days in the band room?"
"No, I don't", I texted back. "I could find something. Or I'll write it. :-)" He replied, "I like your last option, if you have time."

It would be for the spring concert, coming up the following week. Justin said I could have one page in the program. I had 4 days. 
So I went to work.

To get things rolling, I sent out a request to close friends, other parents with kids in band, for ideas, memories, memes. Boy, did that help. After my two kids went through the wonderful music program we have in North Andover - after many years supporting them in the North Andover Middle School and High School music programs - you have a lot of memories. I tried to distill it down. I got the theme from what I heard over and over again from the kids. Here is what came out. 

Go Scarlet Knight Marching Band!

My First Home

Dut-dut-dut-dut, I feel the beat, I hear the voice. How do I explain?

We’re the ones who put on a show – making music is our choice, our DNA –
Dut-dut-dut-dut, I feel the beat, I hear the voice. How do I explain?
We’re the ones who start a show – while lying in the dirt –
lying there on a cold wet field in a white compression shirt!

I started that first day, a little scared, when I entered that holy room.

Mr. N and Mr. I prepared us – Mr. “e” was friendly – why did I feel such doom?
I knew I could make sounds, but would I make music or just a sonic boom?
What would it be like to perform together, in this symphonic playroom?

Mr. Smalley started with “Be Inspiring”; something happened as the magic spun.

We had our roles in Brass and Reeds, in Woodwinds, Percussion and Drums.
We had our roles in Color Guard and as drum majors; we made music, we made fun.
We became more than a bunch of kids, we became a family, we joined as one.

Black socks. Cream Crew. Mr. Smalley remembers my name!

An American in Africa, Primary Colors, We The People, Checkmate!
Hey band! Hey what? Let’s sing “Hey Baby” in the pouring rain!
Bright lights. Chess pieces. The national anthem on the bus. A 93.8! That’s 93 Point 8!

We played concerts, Pep Band and Jazz Nights. We marched in town parades.

At Williamsburg and the LA Festival of Gold, we worked to make the grade.
We played for the school. We played for the town. We played for all America.
Wow, that Encore performance in Nashville! Get ready, next year, it’s Antarctica!

Off that backstage corridor, I became one of many, one of the chosen few.

In a plain room, my home away from home, something here was new.
In the band room, we made harmony rhyme.
Making art, making music, we also made family time.
At home you find your family – something happened as we rehearsed –
The band room is not my second home, I tell you, it’s my first.

by Mark Bohrer, Poet Laureate of North Andover

North Andover is the home of the Scarlet Knight Marching Band

PS One of the best things about the Spring concert night was that my son Nick read this poem from the stage at the concert that night.