Making the Grade

The Cow Who Wasn’t

There once was a cow in a shack
Who had a hump on his back
He said, “If I cough
The hump might come off”
But the hump stayed right where it’s at

The cow thought he made a mistake,
So he walked all the way to a clear, blue lake.
And floating in the water
Was a furry, wet otter
Who was sliding through the liquid like a snake

The cow and the otter had a nice chat
About a little of this and a little of that
But then the otter said
“Look in the water, see your head?”
And when the cow saw his reflection, he sat

The cow with the hump used to be sad
Because he thought his hump was bad
Until the furry, wet mammal
Told the cow “You’re a camel”
And for the rest of his days he was glad.

(Fourth Grade Homework Assignment, 3 Addt’l Verses and Title added Eighth Grade)


This is a room
Wild with wonder
No restraints from the inside
Barred only on the outside
Its doors are pried open–
Ink flows
Paint spatters
Machines invented
It is a room only temporary
Vanishing with the soul

(Ninth Grade, 1995)


I reminisce in melancholy
snapshots, often nostalgic
and sweetly redundant.

Quiet nostalgia
is hidden in Cracker Jacks, redundant
names, and melancholy

faces.  I hear an inaudible redundant
laugh, and see the invisible melancholy
smile of a nostalgic

friend, whose spirit lives redundantly in my melancholy nostalgia.

(Ninth Grade, 1995, 3-word poem)


To the unknowing,
Nature is full of secrets.
The scholar beckons, probes her,
And she confesses, on occasion.
How delectable these rare morsels of knowledge!

The scholar,
Worries that too much knowledge
Would kill the curiosity and thrill of discovery,
On which he thrives,
“What a dull world if we knew all about geese!”(p.20, A Sand County Almanac)
But, Nature, in her infinity, does not hurry her infinite secrets.

To possess a bit of her truth,
Is to wonder, is to care, is to protect.
Thanks to Leopold, messenger,
I wonder more, I care more, I protect more.
Unknowing, I crave Nature’s knowledge.

(College, 1998, inspired by the book “A Sand County Almanac”)


It is probably time we looked around us,
Instead of looking ahead.
Says Wendell Berry,
If you don’t know where you are,
You don’t know who you are.
I know the dissatisfaction and hunger that result from placelessness,
Know where you are.

Knowledge of place–
Working in it in all weathers,
Making a living from it,
Suffering from its catastrophes,
Loving its mornings or evenings or hot noons,
Valuing it for the profound investment of labor and feeling that
Your parents,
Your all-but-unknown ancestors have put into it.

We need to know our history.
The knowing that poets specialize in.
Knowing that involves the senses, the memory, the history of a family or a tribe–
Our history, geology.
Know where you are.

Learn to be quiet part of the time,
Acquire the sense of belonging.
We need to know our history,
Know where you are.

(College, 1998, using words from Wallace Stegner’s “American Places”)


Tossed careless by the wind
Groping, Feverish, Sweaty
Am I sick?

(College, January 2000)


The Force is wise and slow as Time.
She fixes by analyzing, adjusting, and coding for Life.

We, the Living
Are the best
She has to offer today.

“If our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free;
but now we are moved by every wind that blows…” (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein)

We humans think, then:

The Force does not forget any of these things.
The Force is wise and cunning.
She will prepare the humans to come,
For the experiences of their ancestors.

Her work was “simple” long ago:
A coat of fur for the cold-weather dwellers,
Efficient lungs for the oxygen-consumers,
Powerful jaws for the meat-eaters.

How will She correct for today’s whims?
What lungs will She form which breathe monoxides, aldehydes, and phenyls?
What body thrives off sugar and dilute chlorine?
What vision is needed for staring straight ahead for hours?
What bones absorb shock when walking on concrete?
What new types of pain are felt by a nervous system silenced by drugs?

We follow our impulses and change the surroundings to suit ourselves.
We know what we like.  She knows what we need.
She wants to change us to suit the surroundings.
But slowly, so we recognize our young as one of us.

Will the winds of impulse carry us to certain demise,
Before She has Time to adapt us to the world we have manipulated?
Are we mutable?

(College, 2003)







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