Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lawn Sprinkler


THE BEAUTIFUL LAWN SPRINKLER
 by Howard Nemerov

What gives it power makes it change its mind
At each extreme, and lean its rising rain
Down low, first one and then the other way;
In which exchange humility and pride
Reverse, forgive, arise, and die again,
Wherefore it holds at both ends of the day
The rainbow in its scattering grains of spray.


I  know a couple of folks who expressed  opinions  approaching outrage that a poet would dare write a poem to a Grecian urn; the situation these views where  these views arose turned out, finally, to be one of the worst poetry discussions I ever had. The protesters, professed Marxist sorts who thought John Keats was guilty of gross objectification by  subjugating Human issues to the realm of metaphor and abstraction. Absurd, I think, but I think my earnest opponents were disguising personal issues—perhaps they didn’t like  having their sense of humanity even vaguely equated with a receptacle many of us would associate with being a repository for spit, urine and feces—with a vulgar political stance that was quick to criticize and condemn before it understood what was being said. That is the problem of knowing everything. 

I  resist demanding that the poet  obey anyone’s list of do’s and don’ts. My only requirement is that the poem be interesting.  Personifying H allow the poet some room to imagine a man made device in non-material terms; offensive as it may seem to those who've no use for powers greater than themselves, associating a lawn sprinkler with such abstract things as democratic spirit and the great chain is a sure way to get someone to think harder on a subject and ease their burden. Every action starts in one direction and yet completes itself by returning from where it came; the rain rises and then falls again across a community of grass, humility and pride change places, a mind that is dedicated to one direction begins to see wisdom and need in areas that it might not earlier have imagined as things that mattered. I see this as about equilibrium, of things coming toward the center even as tensions seek to stray and take apart; the center grows, it adapts, it changes its premise for being in service a greater good. Individual greatness does not matter if there is nothing the brilliance is connected to and interacts with.

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