Poetry and Lamps

February 7, 2014 by Rieshy

My kids love to assign me reading.  I try to comply because I assign them quite a bit of reading.  Sometimes compliance is easy- my 7 year old comes to me begging me to read a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.  Sometimes I just refuse- a daughter begged me over and over to read Les Misérable one summer; she insisted on the unabridged version.  I didn't refuse because of it's length but because I tend to become immersed in whatever I am reading and absorb the emotions of the characters. Happy summer-time fun mommy and Les Misérable? The title is warning enough.

This weekend the Les Misérable daughter handed me a copy of a short story by Wolfgang Borchert called, Die Küchenuhr.  Unwittingly I read it standing in the kitchen while waiting for water to boil for tea.  A few minutes later I was sobbing.  Yes sobbing.  The main character is approximately my oldest son's age and has discovered that he has lost both his home and his whole family to a bomb.  My daughter started apologizing, hugged me, and handed me a P.G. Wodehouse short story to read.

Literature as Kleenex.  The gesture made me laugh.

The problem is that it is February.  The blahest of the blah months.  This poem by Herman Hesse should be called February... This blogger (rather loosely) translated it and has a link to a youtube reading of the poem done by Herman Hesse.  I love this poem- and don't know why.

Im Nebel

Seltsam, im Nebel zu wandern!
Einsam is jeder Busch und Stein,
Kein Baum sieht den andern
Jeder is allein.

Voll von Freunden war mir die Welt,
Als noch mein Leben licht war;
Nun, da der Nebel fällt,
Ist keiner mehr sichtbar.

Wahrlich, keiner ist weise,
Der nicht das Dunkel kennt,
Das unentrinnbar und leise
Von allen ihn trennt.

Seltsam, im Nebel zu wandern!
Leben ist Einsamsein
Kein Mensch kennt den andern,
Jeder is allein.

How about this poem by Dickinson-


There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons-
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes-

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us-
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are-

None may teach it-Any-
'Tis the Seal Despair-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air-

When it comes, the Landscape listens-
Shadows-hold their breath-
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death-

These resonate this time of year... and make me think that all poets and/or poetry lovers should own full-spectrum lamps or at least round out their readings with poems like the following by Ogden Nash

The Duck

Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It quacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottoms ups.


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