The Wonder, O, the Miracle of life— our consciousness of splendor and of strife and the extremes of ecstasy and terror when we’ve soared right or plummeted in error! Such is our vagrant lot as humankind: sometimes the visionary, sometimes blind, exploring and inventing beyond bounds— in whom at best amazing grace redounds; but yet at worst, a vile monstrosity devoid of love, of light, of sympathy. What hope is there we may in time grow wise before our folly’s fouled this enterprise of life on Earth, this miracle of birth, in all the universe of highest worth?
That genius or that talent that resides In each of us and secretly confides What our vocation is, how we are called To serve the world or otherwise be stalled In our misguided efforts to succeed, Intends our gifts to serve some urgent need.
What need then is fulfilled by poetry Unless to show that ingenuity With words and sounds can first delight and then Enlighten by the wielding of a pen— That strokes of genius may be deftly made As much as when a violin is played
Yet more, because this sound is also sense: A poem may have wisdom to dispense.
Let’s say there is no Heaven and no Hell but just a myth devised to make us good; nor yet an Eden where our forebears fell, reminding us of how we always should comport ourselves with true obedience to those Commandments by which all may live in loving concord with a common sense of dignity, and willing to forgive.
And yet such stories serve to illustrate a vision of how humans should behave if we would grow into the full estate of our humanity and finally save ourselves from failings that we would despise once waking up and growing wholly wise.
Eyes closed, peaceful, semi-recumbent in his half-cocked easy chair, the poet sits and muses till at last apt words begin to flow into strict measures where each fits, and so a stream of thought meanders down the page, propelled by beat and rhyme to find whatever verb or adjective or noun may be most adventitiously aligned with the emerging current of discourse as thought discovers what it has to say through notions flowing from some occult source that now mysteriously find their way onto the page as ink flows from his pen, and when they’re done, the poet says, “Amen.”
What is it one should worship and revere Because above all else it is most dear? The answer must be Higher Consciousness, Which humankind seems destined to express And which some few have managed to achieve, Enough to make the rest of us believe That wisdom is our species’ destiny, The way we’ll end our history’s misery.
Our challenge, then, is how to cultivate What helps us grow to that serene estate: It’s quiet first, a stilling of the mind, So we may providently grow aligned With what it is that brought us into being, A vision of what’s ultimately freeing.
The reason I’m a formalist is that These rhythms and these rhymes help generate An energy that keeps from falling flat A line where beat and thought both correlate; But more than that, this method can evoke From misty depths in my subconscious mind, With the ah-ha and the ha-ha of a joke, Some revelation toward which I’m inclined, Yet without this elaborate scaffolding, I’d never fashion such an edifice; Or call this scheme a maze designed to bring Both me and you to such a point as this Where in due time we finally realize The aim of such devices is surprise.
The prospects that we humans can evolve Into a wiser version of our kind Are slim unless we can at last resolve To cultivate a more enlightened mind, Discovering how to raise our consciousness To view what saints and sages of the past Have realized can make a mind progress By opening to a cosmic vision vast And wondrous, able to transform both hearts And heads, enlightening and inspiring souls, Inculcating in us celestial arts That bind our fragmentary parts in wholes. Now is the time we humans must invoke That Spirit with whom saints and sages spoke.
A sonnet, if no other thing, is clever. Oh, yes, it must be sonorous and sing, But it’s an intellectual endeavor, A cannily designed, well-crafted thing That keeps its meter and discovers rhymes As it proceeds, designing on the fly, Construing new directions while it climbs With sprezzatura—appearing not to try. Those efforts and those pains must seem a game Played with balletic and athletic grace, Performed to make its audience exclaim How each move ends in a predestined place, Though you, the poet, know quite otherwise: That every line you write is a surprise.
Abash, Abate, abet, abstemious . . . And so began our first-form vocab list, Which made us all awhile put up a fuss That Mr. Harlow cruelly would insist Upon our learning ten new words a week While still remembering all of those before— Prompting us to rebel in such a pique* We took our case to the headmaster’s door. Somehow he mollified our wrath, and we Complied with that outrageous regimen, Not knowing yet its profitability For all occasions when we’d wield a pen: The SAT was not the least of these, Plus all our essays earning A’s and B’s.
The readiness is all, the ripeness, too: Two rules for life and art that Shakespeare knew, Which mean that Genius works in its own time According to its destined paradigm, Nor will it be presumptuously coerced, Though in due time its treasures are disbursed. Meanwhile we seek such wholesome nourishment And exercise as further our intent To bring our hidden latencies to birth Made manifest for all to see their worth.
Where does aggression come from but from fear? We are afraid of losing something dear And thus defend ourselves from all assault, Yet in so doing, we commit a fault, Since violence is never justified Unless all peaceful means have first been tried To gain those ends to which we have a right With all care taken to avoid a fight.
The way to peace is generosity, The opposite of animosity; It’s learning to be kind to all our kind, Our motives being harmoniously aligned Because we hold no principle above Each one’s innate entitlement to love.
Erastus Theophrastus Muggledor One day announced himself at my front door Unbidden and unknown and on a mission For a faith I took as just a superstition:
He said that we’re not made for enmity. But, rather, we’re hardwired for empathy; Though malefactors practice double-dealing, Still most of us are moved by fellow feeling And do to others as we’d have them do Compassionately, while standing in our shoe.
“But I thought Darwin said, ‘It’s tooth and claw’” I said. He said, “He later fixed that flaw And recognized survival all depends Not on our enemies, but on our friends.
“Once upon a time” the story starts then takes us on the journey of its plot engaging, at the best, both minds and hearts, discerning what is true from what is not. Because the tale’s a mystery, we must keep all our wits about us as we read, while wondering if we can always trust the narrator or clues that might mislead. A sudden turn of fresh events may throw us off the track, beginning a new course of episodes, adding another foe, yet all the while we close in on the source of all the mayhem, ever held in thrall until Sherlock at last discloses all.