Eccentric and Reckless

A spinning gyroscope.

Gyroscope

By Howard Nemerov
 
This admirable gadget, when it is
Wound on a string and spun with steady force,
Maintains its balance on most any smooth
Surface, pleasantly humming as it goes.
It is whirled not on a constant course, but still
Stands in unshivering integrity
For quite some time, meaning nothing perhaps
But being something agreeable to watch,
A silver nearly silence gleaning a still-
ness out of speed, composing unity
From spin, so that its hollow spaces seem
Solids of light, until it wobbles and
Begins to whine, and then with an odd lunge
Eccentric and reckless, it skids away
And drops dead into its own skeleton.
 
 

When I was a little boy, mine was the kind of toy box that contained a gyroscope, tops of various sorts, a microscope, magnifying glasses, bottles and bug collectors and other assortments of things that were not strictly toys, they were ways to investigate the world.  If I reflect on it, I spent the vast majority of my play time engaged in a study of physics.  Isn’t that what a frisbee is ultimately, a tool for the study of physics?  Also a hot wheel car set upon a track with no power other than the size of the height of the encyclopedias I would concoct, to get the best run and series of undulations, right down  to the last book, so that the car could make it to the end of the track that I had created through the living room and down the long hall way.  Climbing trees, is a study in physics, so is riding a bike, ping pong, baseball.   The problem with electronics is a video game is not a study in physics, it is a study in communication.  I preferred the world when it was dominated by the former.

I have had a hard time of late finding anything relevant to add to the poems I have been sharing.  It is hard to watch the world be ill, seriously ill.  I feel like we are watching our planet spin like a gyroscope, on its axis, like it always has and we have assumed it always will.  Suddenly it has begun to wobble and without our collective imaginations to get it spinning at the proper speed again, its at risk of falling over, motionless and emotionless.  Is emotion an extension of motion?  Does that mean it is an extension of physics, our physical selves?   

I spent some time this week in unbridled play, sheer silliness, like children chasing after a ball.   There was no point to the 2 hours other than to have fun.   There was nothing profound about it, yet the time was utterly transforming for the emotions of the group.   Everyone came away energized, excited, closer.   Why don’t we play with our friends more? The great tragedy of the COVID pandemic is not just the millions of lives lost, but also the life lost of the living.   We started seeing our friends as something to avoid, something we had to protect ourselves from, rather than the cure to what ails us all.  Netflix and books and social media can not replace playing with your friends.  Electronics can not replace physics.  Physics is what makes the world go round.  I think we have to re-imagine our futures, like Stevenson.  But this time, let’s imagine a future without toy soldiers, without any soldiers.  Let’s get the planet spinning again at its proper speed, sustainably, enthusiastically. 

FYI –  a counterpane is a quilt or bedspread. 


 

The Land of Counterpane

Robert Louis Stevenson – 1850-1894

When I was sick and lay a-bed,

I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

I’d Go To All Of Them

Howard Nemerov (1920 – 1991)

“Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.

Howard Nemerov

Political Reflection

By Howard Nemerov

loquitur the sparrow in the Zoo

No bars are set too close, no mesh too fine
To keep me from the eagle and the lion,
Whom keepers feed that I may freely dine.
This goes to show that if you have the wit
To be small, common, cute, and live on shit,
Though the cage fret kings, you may make free with it.




We’ve a mad King, fools aplenty but no Dame Kind to intervene. The plot thickens.

On a brighter note, I love finding sonnet’s hiding in plain sight like Nemerov’s A Common Saw. I realize that for some traditionalists a sonnet must conform to a specific rhyming scheme, but everything else about the structure of this poem is a sonnet, and given the metaphors with Shakespeare’s King Lear, its apparent what Nemerov intended. A day after the election, I wish the same as Nemerov. Instead patience will have to suffice in place of salvation.


A Common Saw

by Howard Nemerov

Good king, that must approve the common saw,
Thou out of heaven’s benediction comest
To the warm sun!
                                       King Lear

Had God but made me a religious man
I’d have it made.  The suburb where I live
Affords an ample choice of synagogues
And seven different Christianities –

I’d go to all of them, to every one
In turn, continuous performances:
Confession and yarmulka, incense and candlelight,
High, low, and broad, reform and orthodox,

Allowing God no possible way out
But my salvation – save that God did not
Make me a religious man, but left me here,
From heaven’s blessing come to the warm sun,

Twined round the pinkie and pinned under the thumb
Of Dame Kind dear and beautiful and dumb.