Monday, March 23, 2015

As Now We See Them

My father, Jack Hicks Hopper, with his older sister, Mary Lillian. This picture was probably taken when their aunt took them back from New Mexico (where my grandfather had moved his family in hopes that it would help his weak lungs) to Arkansas to visit other relatives. I visited my father in January of 1987 (he died in April of the same year) and during a long slow, quiet afternoon, he told me many stories. One of them was about this train trip: he was in the restroom when the train stopped at a station. To keep people from hiding there and riding for free, the restrooms were automatically locked by the conductor as the train pulled into a station. Dad still remembered his terror when he found he could not get back to the others; because of the noise of the station, no one heard him yelling. It was quite some time until he was freed. He still remembered the terrible fear more than seventy years later.
Winter Landscape

The three men coming down the winter hill
In brown, with tall poles and a pack of hounds
At heel, through the arrangement of the trees,
Past the five figures at the burning straw,
Returning cold and silent to their town,

Returning to the drifted snow, the rink
Lively with children, to the older men,
The long companions they can never reach,
The blue light, men with ladders, by the church
The sledge and shadow in the twilit street,

Are not aware that in the sandy time
To come, the evil waste of history
Outstretched, they will be seen upon the brow
Of that same hill: when all their company
Will have been irrecoverably lost,

These men, this particular three in brown
Witnessed by birds will keep the scene and say
By their configuration with the trees,
The small bridge, the red houses and the fire,
What place, what time, what morning occasion

Sent them into the wood, a pack of hounds
At heel and the tall poles upon their shoulders,
Thence to return as now we see them and
Ankle-deep in snow down the winter hill
Descend, while three birds watch and the fourth flies.

John Berryman
Oxford Book of American Poetry, Oxford Univ. Press, page 603-4.

Five five-line stanzas is a good size for a poem. This is enough room to tell a story with lively details and to expound on the meaning of this line of thought for the poet. While there is no strict rhyme scheme, there are traces of it in some of the end words. The phrase "the evil waste of history" covers a lot of territory. Your task: find a painting and tell its story and move out from there / / /

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