The Thinking Poet

The Thinking Poet blog includes a poem along with a few though-provoking questions.  You can use it to ponder, journal, discuss, and/or comment in response.  And if you want to, you can purchase Jim's book, Solstice To Solstice - A Memoir In Verse

The Thinking Poet - II. I Wandered Through Fog 

II. I Wandered Through Fog

I wandered through fog today, thick-headed, 
Drooping, an unwatered plant,
Weary from having been shaken awake
By a fictitious riot that culminated
In a vicious murder by a rabid crowd,
Egged on by a soulless leader,
Also fictional, as far as I know,
Invented over one hundred fifty years ago,
But all too real, all too much like
Current rabid crowds, real ones,
Egged on to recent vicious murders, actual ones,
By soulless leaders, one in particular.
The resemblance was striking
Between these events and their perpetrators,
Unrelated by ideologies,
But identical in their darkness,
Historical twins, along with their hideous brethren
From uncountable other ages and places.
Their demon howl echoes down the centuries, 
The bloody legacy of a species
That dreams of heaven
With both feet planted in hell.

1.Think of a time when you felt rage about some wrong in the world. 
2.If you have not felt rage about the wrongs of others, what has kept you from feeling that?
3.What, if anything, did you do in response to the wrong? If you didn’t do anything, what could you do?

The Thinking Poet - I Intended To Walk 

I Intended To Walk

I intended to walk this morning
In the clear, blue cold of winter,
To watch birds squabble,
Feel the wind chill my face,
And read from the book of life.
But on my way
I passed through the fair field
Where welcome signs are posted,
Even though ancient invaders
Left exploding mines
For anyone who would pass.
I have no map but experience 
To show where the bombs lie,
And once again I am fooled,
Invited and ambushed
By the owner whose posted signs 
Should warn that trespass here
Will cost a limb.

1.All of us experience mine fields that change our day. What mine field did you stumble into recently?
2.Did the mine field change your outlook, as well as your circumstances? How?
3.Have you recovered a hopeful outlook, or are you still working on that? 

The Thinking Poet - I Gaze Out 

I Gaze Out

I gaze out the kitchen window
As I wash the lunch dishes,
Past the snaggle of branches,
Oak, pine, hackberry, and hickory,
All in their winter skeletons
Except for the hackberry
Which wears a robe of English ivy
Like Adam and Eve,
Full of shame at its nakedness,
Past the tan concrete interstate wall,
Its screaming inhabitants
Flying by like wasps on the attack,
Not even visible until you feel their stings,
Past silver light poles, still as sentries,
To the unmarked, cerulean sky.
I sigh, drop my shoulders, 
Unfurl my brow, and smile.
Something in us is made 
To stare into the distance.

1.Describe the setting that helps you feel this way. When was the last time you went there?
2.What does that setting evoke in you? 
3.What is it about that setting that brings that out in you?

The Thinking Poet - Who Am I Talking To 

Who I Am Talking To

I don’t know who I am talking to.
I imagine you to be someone
Who can read.
Well, that narrows it down a little.
And someone who would 
Read a poem.
Having culled out a majority
Of the human race,
I imagine the remaining few of you
To be interested in text
That is less sensational than thoughtful,
Less active than contemplative,
Less redundant than this sentence 
Was going to be,
More interested in my thoughts
Than wives tend to be,
More curious about twenty-five lines
Than I would be, if they weren't mine,
More interested in a view of the world
Through the peepholes of someone else's eyes,
Than anyone without the patience of a saint or a mother.
That's it then. I am talking to my mother,
The saint who listens to her babbling child
Because, after all, listening
Is the language of love.

1.Who listens to you the way you long to be listened to? How do you feel about that person?
2.Who do you listen to with the “patience of a saint or a mother?” 
3.How might your life be different if you were listened to more and if you listened more?

The Thinking Poet - A Box 

A Box

I am building you a box
From the slats of an old swing,
One that hung on our porch
For a short time
After I rescued it 
From roadside abandonment,
Thinking it a treasure
To be cleaned up
And given a new life of joyful service.
May this simple container 
Carry on the tradition
Of the porch swing,
Singing with joy
As you roll the dice
Of story and of life
For yourself
And your friends.

1.Have you ever re-purposed an item so that it becomes something useful again? What made you think you could do that?
2.Have you ever made a gift of something you made or re-made? What was the receiver’s response to your gift?
3.When you give to others what kind of response do you want from them? 

The Thinking Poet - Night Mythology 

Night Mythology

Night mythology
Left over from someone else's youth
Who viewed this time of day
As the Rome toward which
All times lead,
The Christmas of the week 
When the presents of friendship or love
Waited to be unwrapped
As dances, dates, dinners - 
All dreams of the young
In search of their own kind,
In search of the very one
Of their kind who would fulfill 
A thousand unspoken wishes.
Then they find the one,
And for a moment,
Night is filled with stars
And the scent of honeysuckle,
Long, warm kisses, 
And the ravenous touch
Of another's hand.
But night mythology follows our lives
Through the screaming alarm
Of groggy feedings,
Shared child prayers,
Worrisome first sleep-overs,
Nervous first dates,
Unplanned, long conversations,
Anxious waiting up,
And the echoing silence 
Of the empty nest.
Through the wine press of age,
Night loses its shimmer,
Becoming afternoon's dark-haired sister
With no special ambiance of her own,
That is, until she returns
In one glorious finale
To sweep us away 
To a first new dawn.

1.What did night mean to you when you were a child? Does it still carry that meaning, or did it change?
2.What does night to you at your current stage of life? Can you imagine how that might change as your life changes?
3.How will you adapt to the changes that life inevitably brings to you? Can you anticipate them?

The Thinking Poet - Drum Corps 

Drum Corps

A far away drum corps,
Muted by wind,
Uniformed in gray,
Beats in random cadence
All around me,
Speckling window panes
With moving prisms
That catch night lights
And spin them dancing 
To heavenly rhythms.

1. How often do you stop to observe what is going on around you? What happens inside you when you do?
2. Close your eyes for a quiet minute or two, and listen to the sounds around you. What do you hear? Do the sounds make you think or feel anything?
3. How long can you listen before other thoughts start to intrude? Try to extend that time by listening more intently.

The Thinking Poet - Not Half 

Not Half

Not half, but more than half,
A week away from a were's terror,
Lopsided of face,
Rolling up the night,
A silver tire, flattened on one side,
Cut, perhaps, by star shards
That sparkled light years ago
To accompany your limping hike
Across my crystalline January sky.

1. When was the last time you let your imagination run when looking at a natural object. Did you enjoy it, or not? If not, what kept you from enjoying it?
2. Pick something in your view, and re-imagine it as something else with a different existence or even a point of view. What is the value of such an exercise of imagination?
3. What keeps you from doing this more often, especially if you enjoy it? How could you make a place in your life for exercising your imagination?

The Thinking Poet - In The Drizzle 

In The Drizzle

Out into the misty night I will go
Because you asked,
Because you didn't want
To wet your hair in the drizzle,
Though you weren't planning to be seen
By anyone but me,
And I know you were not 
Saving your hair for me
Like a young lover might.
You simply didn't want to be wet,
And I, like an old lover,
Don't care about getting wet
Or whether you were thinking
Of me or your hair
Or anything at all
But that the mail not be left
In the mailbox all night.

1. What sacrifices does love make for the beloved? Are they imbued with deep feeling, or are they just mundane actions?
2. When was the last time you did some small act of love for someone? What was their response? Did their response matter to you?
3. Who does little acts of love for you? How did you respond the last time they did that?
4. Does thinking about this make you want to do anything different?

The Thinking Poet - Broken Castle 

Broken Castle

Since boyhood 
I believed in you, trusted you,
Listening to your passionate prayers,
Your heartfelt singing,
Your delicate unfolding of truth's flower
As a gardener examines each petal,
As a lover explores his beloved,
And I saw in you
Wisdom worth learning,
Journeys worth following,
Lesson by lesson 
As the mile markers flicker by.
I built a castle of vision,
Founded on your shoulders,
A tower from which 
I could gaze upon the world
And recognize distant shores.
But while I was gazing
I saw you, crawling out 
From your foundation place,
And shifting before my eyes,
Once a solid stone,
Turning now to sand,
Washed away from me
And from solidity itself
By preposterous tides
To which you clung
In denial of all you once knew
And all you once taught,
So that truth disintegrated
Around self-serving falseness.
And as the castle crumbles,
From bottom to top,
I wonder what solid stone
Can I find now on which to perch?
What rock will not erode 
Before the tide of falsehood
That carried you and my trust in you
Away forever?

1. Have you ever felt betrayed by a group or individual you once trusted? Were you wrong to trust them in the first place, or did they change in some way? How did that affect you?
2. What did you lose when you were betrayed, and how have you reacted to that loss?
3. If the “castle” can be restored, what is our part in that?
4. Assuming that the “castle” cannot be restored, what do you do now to replace it and find the good things it used to offer you?