Friday, August 12, 2011

Thoughts walking through Ft. McNair

A walk around Ft. McNair. Not an exercise walk. A clear my head and stretch my legs walk.

The Black Keys are in my ears and wind in my face. The walk, for lunch on a beautiful D.C. afternoon, is a solid call. I needed this. The breeze and voices of the Keys breathe air and energy through my lungs.

Without running or any workout routine going, I've been a passenger in my body and through the weeks. A new school schedule for Robin and the girls will likely make lunch runs and workouts the norm. I'm ready for that change, though I'll try to keep some early morning runs, when I get back to running.

Seeing an American flag in the wind at Ft. McNair carries its own awesome meaning, especially this week with the SEAL helicopter going down in Afghanistan. I walk past soldiers and sailors and Marines and I wonder--how can I serve? What is my part? I frequently have that feeling that I am someone who should have been in the military.

Philip Levine was named U.S. Poet Laureate this week. He's been one of my favorite writers for some time. One of the things that moved him further into poetry was reading a book by Wilfred Owen, given to him by a high school English teacher. Owen was a lieutenant in World War I. He wrote about his experiences in the trenches, the literal and figurative casualties of war.

Levine graduated from high school in 1946. He had figured he'd be drafted out of school, but World War II had just ended. He knew his calling was to write poetry. To know your calling.

He worked in automobile plants, a Detroit factory worker, and wrote grease-stained poetry on the side. We need more grease-stained poets and writers, like Levine and Palahniuk. That's how you arrive at Levine's "The Simple Truth:"

                                                           Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light fathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

Maybe that's it. Maybe that's my part, my calling, but more to the point, maybe that's any of our parts: for our lives, for our selves to be "simple and true," "laid on the table beside the salt shaker," and standing for ourselves.

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