My last “My View” talked about change and, specifically, change in Gloucester.
There is rapid and sometimes shocking change going on in our city and many have sent poems describing the turmoil; some in welcome it, others in lamentation. (See below on the contest!) All agree that, no matter how unique, Gloucester cannot escape the inevitable.
There may not be escape, but we can take a vacation.
I have found two routes. One is right here in the city, or more exactly, from the city. It is the Atlantic ocean. The view of the sea from our shores is the same view Lane had when he painted. It is the same view Champlain had when he visited in 1606. It is the same view countless Native Americans had for the millennia before Europeans landed.
The vista sooths. Turmoil tends to disappear, or at least soften, in the face of timelessness, a challenge to importance, the sense that our experience, our time, our place must be preserved.
This meditative escape is poetic and follows T.S. Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday” prayer:
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.
The second route I have discovered is the museum. Not any museum, or all parts of museums, but the largest of them, with the deepest collections.
We can’t vacation from change at the Museum of Modern Art. Or the Dr. Pepper Museum. Or the Museum of Flight. But the Metropolitan in New York and the Fine Arts in Boston will do.
Both of these mammoths house contemporary work, of course, but also have troves of ancient art and artifact, thousands of years worth. It is not the sea, but Ancient Greece, Rome, Pharaohnic Egypt sooth. Time teaches us, humbles us, and we sit still. I have included below a poem that tries to capture the mood, based on notes from the MFA.
“The School of Not Moving”
Hands flat on his greywacke lap,
Pharaoh’s unfazed by city traffic,
Gabby guards, the bell of children
A gallery back as they meet the mummy.
Similar stillness marks the stern
Gravegood gods, the case of cats,
And hard headrests chipped from sycamore
Fig that would surely slow time.
The children charge, scend of the present
In a playful, plaid dash. They fog
And print the glass, they tickle toes,
Cry ‘Cookie!’ at canopic jars.
Only their flight to the future, ancient
Rome restores the ka of calm,
As slow, time-killing tourists,
Stiff as stelae, breathe easy.
Meanwhile, have you written a poem about change in Gloucester? Mail your mighty lines, c/o Change Contest, The Writer’s Block, Box 5524, Gloucester, MA 01930, including contact information.
The deadline is Dec. 1, and winning poets will be invited to read their work on Cape Ann TV’s The Writer’s Block during the 2012-13 season. All Cape Ann residents are eligible. Please limit each entry to 20 lines.
John Ronan is the host of Cape Ann TV’s “The Writer’s Block” and is a former poet laureate from the city of Gloucester.