Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Genesis" by Lowell Jaeger, Contest Judge

Lowell Jaeger

In the beginning, at the kitchen table,
"Practice" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
my three children with paper and crayons,
shoulders bent low and hands fisting
the task before them.

Lo, through the wide windows
the morning shown down upon artistic intentions,
and the sun’s slant rays rained
a glittered drift of pine pollen, spray of stardust,
as pages transformed, filled

with trees of leafy green, turquoise lake and sky, purple-grey  
cluster of clouds enshrouding the highest reaches
of a distant craggy range.  Whole neighborhoods
begotten. Barns.  Fenced acres of spotted cattle, grazing.

And birds everywhere. I could hear them sing
as I passed through the room on this day
of creation, pulled on my boots, opened the door,
to behold the vastness, the particulars, the swirl

and churn of genesis, circumstance and inspiration,
my children and their children and theirs awash
in the world’s possible outcomes, joyously enraptured, laboring
to guide the butterfly — this one colored orange/yellow —

supping from a tall flower,
which hath blossomed bold and blood red.
That one.  Corner of the garden.  
Edge of the page. Right there. 

Poet’s Notes:  A poet has three levels of consciousness buzzing constantly and simultaneously. The first level is the Do-er; he’s the one who walks the streets day to day rubbing elbows with the physical world.  He’s absorbed in the work at hand, whatever tasks he encounters. 

Second, there’s the See-er.  He’s observing what the Do-er does.  He’s watching how the Do-er interacts with others, and he’s learning, learning, learning.  He’s calculating strategies and consequences. To the See-er, all endeavors are a bit ridiculous, but he’s bemused (and deeply touched) by the comedy and tragedy of the” human condition.”  

The third level is the Star-child.  He truly is the “space cadet.”  He knows he’s made of hell-fire and stardust.  From his far view, he sees the Earth as a pitiable and lost grain of sand soaring in the black outer reaches of creation.  He watches as time unfolds, as everything comes and goes. Everyone is everybody, and no one is anybody.

No experience in my life has taught me more than becoming a parent.  (And now, a grandparent!)  You’d need to be almost blind not to see yourself in your kids and not to see your kids in you.  The whole notion of biological reproduction gives me goosebumps, leaves me nearly speechless.  Buddhists talk about how everything we encounter is instructing us, waking us to see who and what we are.  

I look at my children and I see I am beautiful.  This is obvious.  I see that there’s a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other and what matters is that they never stop their cosmic quarrel.  “Be careful in casting out your demons,” wrote William Blake, “because your angels may just leave with them.” (see Editor's Note)  This is confusing at times--at times even confounding.  

When my kids are giggling, I see how laughter comes bubbling up from the heart and I feel new joy in witnessing where some of my old joy has relocated.  Kids can get angry and kids can hate.  I see my DNA has enriched my children’s tricky-stubborn souls with those possibilities, too.  All of these tensions between contraries are like a fist full of crayons.  And look!  So many blank, white pages waiting open for each of us.

“Dad, you’re a good maker,” said one of my daughters.  I’m a silversmith, and she was only three, standing behind me, watching me torching metals at my workbench.  This was a high compliment.  Aren’t we all “makers?”  Aren’t we all shaping our lives and in doing so, shaping the world around us? Sure, our tiny creations are no more than bee farts in comparison to so many bigger things happening in the universe.  But in the poem “Genesis,” I’m a maker in shoes, watching myself walk through the room. And I’m one happy cluster of star slag, amazed at how far I’ve traveled and how far I’ll go.

Editor’s Note:  It was Friedrich Nietzsche who once said, "Be careful, lest in casting out your demon you exorcise the best thing in you." https://quotefancy.com/quote/5288/Friedrich-Nietzsche-Be-careful-lest-in-casting-out-your-demon-you-exorcise-the-best-thing  Although demons and angels were the subject of much of Blake's work, the Editor found no evidence of a similar quote attributed to William Blake.

“Genesis” was previously published in Earth-blood & Star-shine, and Joy Anthology.

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