Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Jester On The Garden Wall

I didn't write a poem yesterday because I got home late for the sixth straight night in a row and I just couldn't see writing another poem about being exhausted. So today, I will write two. Here's the first, with a bit of background.

About a million years ago when I lived outside of Oxford (the one in England) in the house of an Irish widow named Bernadette O'Gara (no I'm not making this up), I would pass a pub on the way in to Oxford called The Gypsy Scholar. I LOVED that name. While I couldn't rightly call myself either a gypsy or a scholar, that name put together two of the very few things I was sure of at the tender age of 21: that I loved books, and that I was seriously challenged in the Art of Settling Down.

14 years later, I still love books (as anyone who has been to my apartment can attest), and I have forced myself to stay in one place long enough that it has become home. However, I'm still *me*. For example, I'm a Government Contractor working in a cubicle farm... but I'm The One With A Hundred Rubber Ducks In My Cubicle. The ducks have managed to migrate all over my section of cubicles, balanced on top of the cubicle walls, and occasionally my co-workers and I lob them at one another. At one point, we set up a chess board using sticky notes and I made up a key for which ducks were which chess pieces and for about two weeks people drifted by my cube, played a move, and then went on. I have one very zen-like co-worker who makes a point to balance one duck on top of another duck every time he leaves my cube. Basically, the whole duck thing works, but there are certain ex-military staff members who wince every time they walk by my cube. I would give them a duck if they'd take one.

So I survive in this adult world as the Gentle Eccentric... harmless and fun, but a little weird. And in this taciturn town, I provide something of a public service by Bringing the Zany so that people feel a little freed up. But I'm still an outlier.

So this is a poem about that... specifically about the occasional reaction I have to folks who live and breathe stability sans rubber ducks or any other such accoutrement.

the jester on the garden wall

I live on the outside of the garden wall
with this ragged, lively band
of circus performers, street preachers,
soothsayers, hypochondriacs,
and occasional verbal acrobats.

One day, curious, I hoist myself up on the wall,
and peer in to see you cultivating flowers,
tending carefully, carefully.
Lost in the quiet story unfolding,
I forget where, and who, I am.

No snake charmer could intrigue me
the way you do, with
careful words and gentle gestures.
I watch you guide a wild vine along
a delicate white trellis,
fingers like fleshy knitting needles,
guiding, guiding.

And then I realize I've stopped breathing.

Did I consign myself to live
outside the garden wall?
Could I catapult myself over?
Could I bring this jester's costume
of jangling bells and bright colors
into your sacred space?

Or would I find that once inside
I would be like a wild animal,
scratching at the gate,
wanting to be free?

It's a troubling thing, this having gypsy blood.

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