Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Three poems by Fred Wolven

Three poems
by Fred Wolven


It is hard to tell just how long he sat there,
just sat, relaxed, alert, looking in, patiently
waiting for exactly what no one else seemed
to know, much less really care. So, there

he sat, while Roethke performed, carrying
on as if nothing else mattered, nothing else
was as significant as his reading, his uttering
his lines, singing his lyrics with more gusto

than ever before. Or so it all seemed to any
in the area during the taping and most viewers
later on when the film appeared. Ah, but can
we be certain what the connection between

poet and feline, what the subtle force drawing
them together then and lasting how long few
know, or even begin to understand. After all,
this cat is in the long tradition going back to

Egypt at least, and few comprehend the role
of felines back then, must less in Ted’s day.



“All learning is remembering and the lessons
learned are but memories reclaimed.”
--Joe McNair

There is much to be said for studying the
pharaohs, for in truth, when one searches
for wisdom, one could do less than take a
page or two from King Tut and others from

the Valley of the Kings and their era. Even
as a youngster I recall learning a minuscule
amount of Egyptian history, something about
the river Nile, about some ancient queens,

and then we also learned about hieroglyphics
and their purpose, their use, their meanings.
And shortly thereafter I began learning of
poets and poetry, in elegies and epigrams, as

I recall these many years later. Yes, after
acquiring a brief view of the beauty of Egypt,
I started reading the likes of Shelley and Keats,
Frost and Shakespeare, and, Roethke. Later, as

he, Roethke, was filmed reading in Puget Sound,
a cat sat outside his door just quietly looking in.



Today it is hard to recall exactly just why that cat
sat outside that door while Roethke pranced inside
for the cameras, rattling off selection upon selection.
Amazing as it seemed then listening to his singing,

or nearly chanting, as it seemed, he spouted forth
love poem, family narrative, darkly tuned lyric,
and even Puget Sound and Michigan-grounded
life-like glimpses of tree, fern, rose, and bird. Oh,

he was very clear-throated, lumberjack nurtured, and
slightly mono-toned, so nattily attired, and mentally
focused, that he invoked the tradition of the medieval
court jester, the chanticleer spreading the word, or the

apprentice craftsman fashioning swords for a prince.
How clearly I recall his movements, his introductions
for each poem—being none of them over nor under-
stated or presented. A virtual performer was this

poet before his cat—that one waiting patiently outside
for its master enacting his singular chorus lines inside.

Author bio:

Fred Wolven, a recently retired College professor, and now thus unemployed, edits Ann Arbor Review (a poetry journal) online. He writes poetry, encourages younger and newer poets and writers, has refound the love of his life, and appreciates having time to walk, talk and enjoy friends. These poems are from the first of three different series reflecting the impact/influence of the late Theodore Roethke. At one time while Roethke was being filmed reading and performing in his Pudget Sound home, his cat sat, just sat - Buddha like, outside the screen door looking in. Thus, somehow, these poems....

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