Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'll Say a Poem For You

Once upon a time there was a land with genteel customs. They demonstrated concern for one another in nice ways. They said "Bless You" when someone sneezed. They said "Thank You" for gifts and kindnesses and even for their meals. And a very widespread custom across the land was the wish, "I'll say a poem for you."
When someone was ill, a friend would say, "I'll say a poem for you." When someone had a big test at school, they'd hear, "I'll say a poem for you." If someone lost their wedding ring or even the remote to their TV, you guessed it, "I'll say a poem for you." Even their President would close his addresses with, "And remember, I'll say a poem for you."
Now the usual response to this was various forms of gratitude. "Oh you're so kind." "Thank you very much." "Oh, would you? How sweet." But the fact is, among many adults, and especially the more "High society" types, the poem was rarely actually said. Sure they would teach their children to do it, and if they were visiting someone in the hospital they would say the poem for them before they left. If they were asked to say a poem at the beginning of a meal or at a formal meeting, they would always graciously comply. But mostly, they just didn't get around to it.
A child might say for a friend or grandparent:
"I really hope that you get better
So that you can watch our setter
when we go across the nation
On our next family vacation."
"If you would soon become OK
Then we could play most everyday.
I hope that you will soon get well
So you don't go to the Hospi-Tel."
Of course when a child said a poem, or made a sincere stab at it, Moms and dads would say "Good Job" or "Well Done" or give Junior a high-five.
And certainly, as they got older, their poems matured as well.
A young man was heard on the PA system at a football game to say,
"Now all the players on the field
Should do their best and never yield,
To strive and fight and outperform
To overwhelm them like a storm.
But for their safety we would hope,
And if an arm should break, to cope
with sportsmanlike dignity in the end
and so depart here, friend and friend."
An older well beloved gentleman recited his favorite meal-time prayer at a large civic luncheon,
"The food looks great, the company sweet,
But I can't wait 'Cause I'm ready to eat!"
And there were smiles and peals of laughter even though they'd heard this poem many times before.
Sadly though. in most homes poems were never heard. In schools, after the obligatory Opening Poem, just after the Poem of Allegiance to the flag, there were no more heart felt poems uttered.
In business meetings, restaurants, taverns, and at neighborhood bar-b-qs, No Poems were said.
Tragically, even in the houses of poetry, an institution that set this nation apart from others, a practice that many said made their nation great; very few attended anymore, to say their poems or listen to others.
Sure some tried to get the Great poems of the past repeated and memorized, but folks just didn't go there anymore. And for all the questions and answers about why, for all the socio-cultural studies that were done, for all the pleading or haranguing for folks to return to those Places of Poetry, the simple reason was, people no longer believed they did any good.
Oh maybe they encouraged a genteel state to some degree. Maybe they helped grease the wheels of common courtesy and the course of human endeavor and interaction. but they didn't really need poetry to do that. They could just be nice and follow the Ten Stanzas and the Bill of Rhymes and all would go quite well.
But there was a quiet disappointment among many, that the beauty of their culture had been lost and replaced with a duty to rules and forms with no heart in them.
Oh how sad a people we are, (One of their sages wrote)
To make false promises near and far,
To say a poem for a friend or a child,
And then to forget it, after a while.
Where is our heart and where is our spine?
Have we forgotten oh friend of mine?
That promises made and wishes expressed
Are worth inconvenience, worthy of test.
That we should be able to say we did.
I did say a poem for you, I did!

1 comment:

  1. This is Corrie.... Cool allegory Dad. Or or is it just symbolism? I forget. Anyway I really like it. I might say that the next time Im gonna say, "I'll pray for you."


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