Poets Online Archive
the lesson

"Golden Season" by Kurtis Lamkin deals with the difficult situation of having knowledge that can not be conveyed to another. Whether it be the parent wanting to pass on the experiences of age to a child, the believer trying to explain to the unbeliever, the lover trying to give reason for their love, the poet trying to interpret with words - there are times when the knowledge seems impossible to express. Is it the subject? The speaker? The audience, the situation?

For this poem explore the difficulties of communicating the lessons learned.

"Golden Season" is from the anthology I Feel A Little Jumpy Around You: Paired Poems by Men & Women

Kurtis Lamkin is a featured poet in the PBS video and accompanying book Fooling With Words

Click here to view a video of Kurtis performing with his kora ( a West African 21-stringed harp-lute)


Lesson #2

I tried to teach him
and in that trying
failed to reach him.

I knew the how,
the what of it,
but could not explain,

recall, a why.
Which must be
where to begin.

To know why
(once I did)
is to the teacher

as how and what
are to the student.
I need to begin

again, so that I
can again find
beginner's mind.

Charles Michaels


A Bedtime Story

Once upon a time
when my children were small
we'd huddle together
for our nightly ritual
of the bedtime story.
They'd tiptoe past
the covers of the book,
slip into the story like
cozy, flannel, footed pajamas,
and walk in the footsteps
of  their favorite characters.
They'd become
the runaway rabbit,
the little boy with
the obsolete steam shovel,
the duck on the Yangtse River
with his 42 cousins,
and the little engine
huffing over the hill
because it thought it could.
Listen, I'd say,
these stories have lessons--
patience in this one
perseverance in that--
but they'd just blissfully
bellylaugh back into my lap.
For them these tales
blended together like
so many marshmallows
in mugs of hot cocoa
they stirred and sipped
night after night
until soothed and sated
they'd drift off to sleep
wrapped in a fairy-tale cocoon
of good night moon and
happily ever after.

Barbara Whitehill


The Bull

When I was three, my uncle, the dairy farmer,
set me on a cow, whom I straddled,
a broad brown Io munching in the barn.
This is a bull, he said.
He laughed, as did the others ranged round,
my grown male cousins in their thick creased jeans.
Earlier I had seen the bull in his pasture
and I knew with my own eyes that this was not he.
Or was it?         I couldn't be sure.
I knew one thing though.  My uncle liked
trapping my fear like that, like it was something
he could fill a can with and carry to market in his truck,
the commodity of a young girls fearful heart –
the sweet smell of hay, and the cow's back under me
like a long bony saddle.  Solid she was, like a planet.
She had no doubts.
She knew it was me riding her, and not the bull.
Later I drank her milk and thanked her kindly.
The bull stood all night in the paddock under his horns,
knowing nothing, making seed.
 

Mary DeBow

Behind the Wheel
 

My father tried to teach me to drive his car.
A stick shift with a slippery clutch that leapt
away from intersections under my foot
and seethed on hills as I fought gravity.

He tried to teach me to let the engine slow
me down, save the brakes, downshift.
On the highway he told me to always leave
an opening on one side, just in case.

Parallel parking was a miracle when it worked.
I watched in reverse for the rear door to pass
the parked car's taillight and cut the wheel hard.
And when it failed, I could not explain it.

Nor could he. Any more than he could stop me
from buying my own automatic transmission
foreign compact, riding the brakes, staying out
late and disappearing for days, then nights

and finally driving so far that he could not hear
my car pulling into the driveway, would not recognize
the sound or the woman at the wheel. He would reach
to turn the lock before she knocked at the door.

Pam Milne

Answer

Like lightening there was a flash
I profoundly knew the answer
By the time satisfaction
Thundered at me
It was gone
The irony
I knew
I had
Had
It
 

Michael Z Murphy


How can I be a teacher,
though educated to be so?
Forsooth, no booth or shelf
could hold the bold truth
that I could tell or sell
to feature what this teacher
knows so well.

However, I soon forget my elation
at learning and yearning to know.
I can’t reach the children
to help them grow.
What I’d prepared
to tell them
all disappeared and fell
when I faced them.

How sadly I turn
from the burning creations
I’d brought to sway them.
So dearly bought,
so clearly sought by me,
this knowledge now is naught
but merely mine!

Cheered by their peers to jeer
at wisdom other than their own
(dearly bought on the streets,
repeated, defeating my thought),
They are not geared
to hear my words.

Thus each teacher asks ,
"How can I give you tasks
while your squirming
madly thrusts your passions
and your fashions thither?
How to trust and find
a common ground sound enough
- stuff that's tough enough -
to bind us all together?"
 

Catherine LeGault

 


Golden Season     by Kurtis Lamkin
reprinted by permission of the author

I shoulder my son over dead stalks,
feel him up there rocking,
a captain taller than we'll ever be alone.

He trips cornrows like a one-man
kindergarten, scattering south
toward woods senile in the far haze.

If I could teach him I would tell him
men are longitude, women latitude
but wherever you stand is the top of the world.

What else can you tell a boy
who likes flying, sparrows, tumbling
and being amazed?

You know he's not a herd of palominos
but he thinks he's free.
 


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