Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 24 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014


We begin the last full week of National Poetry Month with Day 24. Yesterday's poem was so hard, really, and I'm glad for something a little easier today. Maureen Thorson suggests a poem about masonry: "a poem that features walls, bricks, stones, arches, or the like. If that sounds a bit hard, remember that one of Robert Frost’s most famous poems was about a wall" (NaPoWriMo). Robert Lee Brewer's prompt is: "take the phrase 'Tell It to the (blank),' replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem"(Poetic Asides).

On the University of Northern Iowa campus, we — the Languages and Literatures department — moved recently from our long-standing home, Baker Hall. I had my office in that building for almost twenty years. After we left Baker Hall, the university demolished it; in its place will be a "green space," whatever that means. I'm hoping for a little lake.

Here are some pictures of the Baker Hall demolition, courtesy of UNI's Rod Library.




Merging Maureen's and Robert's prompts again today. After the Baker walls were through a tumblin', I got a chunk of masonry from the rubble. Baker had brick walls with an interesting texture, and you can see that on the chunk I picked up, pictured below.

Tell It to the Brick

Baker Hall had been a men's dorm
in one of its avatars, before it became
an office building. Yes, the thing was crumbling,
white paint flaking behind the radiator
in my office. Yes, the old dowager, battleship,
was a dinosaur . . . no, a trilobite,
but Baker had class, panache: art deco
spiraling staircase and stained-glass windows.

So if you want to tell Baker Hall
goodbye, wish her bon voyage, good travels
on the oceans where vanished buildings sail,
crewed by squadrons of former residents,
like the elderly visitor who told me he had once
lived in my office . . . friends, tell it to the brick.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


And now moving to Alan's Day 24 poem, here's his set-up: "I am attempting to follow both Robert's and Maureen's prompts today." I'm glad both Alan and I are mashing up the two "official" prompts.

Tell It to the Block Wall Buckling East

Tell it to the block wall buckling east,
the one your uncle built to keep
the steep truncated slope he cut
with just a bulldozer from washing clear
across his newbuilt carport;
look at spots where half-grown kids
could pull it down to pieces.

Tell it to the silt fence
as the rain starts;
watch the topsoil spill.

Tell it to the high-gauge chain-link fence
intended to catch boulders loosed
by winter freeze from cliff faces
cut for high-country interstates.

Tell it to the shallow moat where tanks
of toxic chemicals may leak
and overflow upstream
from city water intakes
on the Elk River.

Tell it to the concrete containment cap
as the last remnant of the Deepwater
Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tell it to the Fukushima exclusion zone.

Tell it to the block wall for the good
it will do.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Fukushima Exclusion Zone
The damaged nuclear plant in the background,
pieces of the broken seawall in the foreground.

Alan, you've written a powerful testament to humans' hubris against powerful natural forces. We think we can best nature, but instead we end up more like Percy Bysshe Shelley's King Ozymandias, whose huge statue lies tumbled and broken in the Egyptian waste: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, / Half sunk, a shattered visage lies," nothing but "that colossal wreck, boundless and bare." Bravura work, my friend.


Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. If you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince, then find the word comments and click it once.

Ingat, everyone.  


POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


2 comments:

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Vince, do you mourn the demolition of a building where you've worked?

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post. I graduated from UNI with a Spanish major and Portuguese minor in '92. I spent a lot of time on the third floor of that great old building.

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