The Parable of Snow
by Doug Ramspeck
The mean boys believe in an augury of falling snow,
how it drifts from the shadows of the sky,
burying the land. And what they feel for the ones
they brutalize is a kind of plaintive sorrow,
the way a stream accepts the ice of its own body.
Once I saw one sucking a bloodied knuckle like a succulent
morsel of fruit, saw him leaning against the chain-link
fence and closing his eyes into what appeared, in that instant,
like the suturing of two incisions. The mean boys
are as lonely as a breath struggling to form a cloud
that will not hold, as lonely as the hoof prints of the horses
past my father’s barn, where he walks this morning
like the mean boy he surely was when he was young.
Copyright 2018 University of Tampa Press. Project Muse.
Am I alone in finding that poems often take up residence in my mind, whether for a short time or a long time, because of one word? In the case of Doug Ramspeck’s poem The Parable of Snow, the word for me was – augury. A word that we have let lapse from our common vocabulary as society has become more secular and we have allowed technology to replace nature as the primary source of wonder in our eyes.
The Parable of Snow is not a sonnet. I am realizing this blog is going to wear me out if I don’t loosen up the reigns a bit and follow the trail of curiosity that brought me to this trail head in the first place. The writing of this blog has taken a toll on my own writing. I will eventually need to take a break from it if I am to find the energy to write my own poetry with any frequency again. For now, there is something almost spiritual about pursuing sonnets deeply, beyond the first layer, beyond the second layer, getting to down to the bones and tendons of an idea and letting it ruminate for longer than is possibly even healthy. It is like I am pursing a master’s degree in literature on-line of my own volition and without the rules and structure of graduate school. This freedom is both more liberal and more restrictive as the bonds of responsibility to the task are all of my own creation. Isn’t that what all obsessions have in common in the end, a fascination that borders on malignancy?
The process of uncovering sonnets that are candidates for the blog, can at times feel like an excursion into ancient history, an endless campaign of reaching back in time. It can be a pleasant distraction, but it has also begun to feel after only 6 months like I am intentionally disconnecting from the present. It’s why I am feeling the need to start to broaden the inclusion of poems that may not meet the rhyming requirements of a strict definition of a sonnet or maybe not even the structure of a sonnet, but are poems that feel relevant in some way to my current thoughts and daily sojourns and forays.
I do not want to taint the artistry of Ramspeck’s poem by attaching to it any specific headline. Any one can pick up any newspaper and find the ravaging’s of mean boys in print. I don’t believe that brutality is genetic. I don’t believe it is a natural manifestation of mental illness, poverty, drug use or depression. There are plenty of people whose response to adversity or even cruelty is to become gentler and more introspective. How do “mean boys” become mean? Why do we elect or promote “mean boys” into positions of power in business and government? What does our current governments say about the electorate at large, not only here in the United States but around the world? Are despots the manifestation of their own identity or a reflection of the society that allowed them the power to become a despot in the first place? Are democratic despots, our current despot in chief a prime example, more corrupt than some local strongman turned marauder, as they are the very epitome of corruptness of the entire political machinery that allowed them to ascend to the very height of government? Our current President is the biggest bully on the block, twitter his megaphone, hammer and anvil. His critics and defenders are both quick to rise to the challenge of bullying right back to prove the correctness of their position, all sides forgetting that the softness voice in the room often carries the argument upon reflection.
If meanness is a learned behavior, can it be unlearned? These are the questions I ask myself in the aftermath of another mass shooting another lurid headline of unreasonableness. If the answer is that violence and war are part of our nature and guns an unassailable reality of American culture, then their is no solution to this problem, other than to hope that those of us that choose to live our lives without weapons evade the randomness of what the mean boys have in store to keep themselves entertained or to write their final epitaph in blood.