Friday, July 15, 2005

Aging, Joy, Water, Children, Love and Illness

A sestina by Dr. Alan Feldman, Professor of English and 2005 Distinguished Faculty Member of Framingham State College, read by the author at the 2005 commencement exercises...

I've told them it's a good form for obsessives. Love
for example may preoccupy you, like a long illness
or a splinter you can't extract, or a joy
so huge it's like standing next to a blimp. They are children
in this art, circling the big square seminar table. I'm aging,
wearing out my seat. In recent years, they've been flying through
here as fast as water.

Oh, sometimes, if the shade is up, I see a sky as blue as water
over their heads, while their heads are bowed in writing. I love
the quiet then in the room. I can almost hear them aging --
something they like, still, since to them it's growth, not an illness.
As i get older, they look like adults recently fashioned from
the children
in some fifth grade class, their child-faces sheer joy

as they assume their beauty and distinction. Well, i know for them
there isn't much joy
in school, they'd all rather be in or on the water
with iPods, towels, surfboards, digging in the sand like children
though I'm sure if I asked them they'd say they love
the course. After they're absent they even show me little notes for
non-serious illnesses
like mono and strep, nothing like the grave things they'll get when
they're really aging.

So it's fun for me because as I'm aging
they keep appearing here like bubbles out of a spring. Earth's joy
in its own improvisation. More kids! More kids! For better or ill.
None any more necessary or unnecessary than the rest of us. Made
from water
and a few cents worth of minerals, and full of love
for the sweet forms of each other, something that leads to
the begetting of new children

though not just yet! No, here their heads are bent like children
taking a spelling test, their hair hanging down like curtains so you
can't guess their ages,
their book satchels, soda cans, candy bar wrappers, the sprawl
of Xeroxed papers i love
to hand out (so I can know I'm giving them something -- oh joy! --
even if it's only paper). Yes they could be underwater
they're concentrating as silently as though the illness

of distractibility has been cured for everyone forever, that illness
that drowns out all but the obvious meaning of words. Well,
children
aren't fooled by the obvious. They know the words are waiting
like water
to be played with. If I look up now I can see the sky is aging
into the color of the blue snow. But the windows are wide open. And
they seem to enjoy
writing while wearing their bright coats, not bothered by cold,
safely in love

with the winter that won't mean (for them) illness or aging
but amazing changes as the ice melts to water, and their thoughts
turn into waves of joy
as they turn away from being children, and find their own
new words to tell us how angry are, how much they love.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Lulu said...

Lovely. This reads like an Auden poem (a good thing).

9:53 AM  
Blogger KAB said...

Thanks for this post. I teach a philosophy class at a small community college. He's captured it...growing old, teaching the young, passing things out while passing on...

10:06 AM  
Blogger red-queen said...

that's it, kab - and the one thing you can never teach them is how fleeting life is...

i was in the audience when Feldman read his poem, my daughter one of the graduating class - looking at their shining faces, i was moved to tears by the poignant beauty. Quite the loveliest thing i've ever heard at a commencement ceremony.

10:17 AM  

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