On this Place

This is a poem about my experience at TJ that I've just drafted for a scholarship contest. It's always difficult for me to write when I can't simply follow my mind's whims, but this is what I've got. Some of the typesetting, especially around the few phrases in parentheses, doesn't show up well in this format, so excuse those.

Years ago, I looked

forward; towards

something I, willingly,

could not grasp.

Day and night

were not unsimilar,

then; I would slowly push

my way – clearing the air –

each day parting opaquely,

an unknowing sweat:

the patina that, so slowly,

brought clarity: the surface,

my brow bent low.

Time passed and

conservatively I came to –

(understanding.) My fingers,

guided by those earnest hands that

with great patience, teach.

Then, measurement was my

chief concern: a ceaseless procession

of fact, dense with indifferent subtlety, passed

before me, nearsighted.

I worked to understand,

to share in the apparent pleasure

of knowledge – that

(apparent) fount of good stories

and warmly lit futures well-

told years from now.

And yet, a certain confusion

persisted: a liberal absence of sense;

Beyond each opaque day, there lied

more than patient hand could convey.

Time passed

(and) slowly, my urge to measure the world,

to sum things up, to

reduce down to the essentially empty

an experience that I had barely begun to grasp,

faded from my thoughts.

Then, for the first time

truly, I was free.

Each passing day brought new

the bounties of this truth which,

only by accident, I had found.

At first, thereafter,

I was angry.

Why hadn’t those patient hands,

handed to me the

right to be free of worry?

Why was such importance placed

on the facts of life, the means to ends,

that, without allegory, without

the shadows they cast upon

the plain things of day and night,

lost all meaning.

Slowly, though, I was

but simple relief.

Time, as always, passed and

at Time’s insistence,

I turned up my softening gaze and

with a new appreciation

faced those people: real people,

who spent their days

guiding the many hands of youth.

I saw then their faces:

brows down, the sweat

of a tired man or woman

lending glory to the

otherwise meek;

a pride too, there,

an inimitable sense of pride,

restrained by necessary distance:

the gap between mother and child grown.

I saw then their faces and

saw myself.

Surely this: this recognition

of our inherent similarity,

this undeniable empathy:

a shared existence and

appreciation thereof;

Surely this: lessons of history,

of math and science, of music, of all

maginable places: all equally

lessons of our time and of each-other.

Surely this base significance,

this foundation against which

everything has meaning,

s the greatest thing of which

I have, here, learned.

In my everyday, I extoll

this truth; I am

thankful to this place, to

the many hands, that

with great patience, guided

my trembling fingers to grasp

that which I, alone,

had to learn.


jessejames said...

I had to read it through a couple times to fully grasp what you were saying (probably because I'm tired), but it's an amazing piece. The language is indirect, beautiful and still provides a strong image. Awesome job, man.