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Posts Tagged ‘Peter Makuck’

Brave families at the NC Zoological Park today: heat index topping 100, no respite cloud, scant breeze, water fountains running low.  Even the rhinos and bongo (antelope) had sense enough to find a patch of shade and not budge from it.  But Zoos are made for families, and a good chunk of mine showed up to join me on my first afternoon as Poet-in-Residence.

My kids are 30+; Margaret said she couldn’t remember ever going to the zoo,  Josh said his last trip was in seventh grade, Allison has fond memories but they’re getting pretty fuzzy.  Jimmy and Dana (Allison’s parents, Josh’s in-laws) and I reminisced about the zoos of our youth and how much things have changed.  But four-year-old Saul didn’t need to philosophize – he kept us laughing repeatedly with his hoots of amazement at every new wonder.  The park was closing as we literally dragged him away from the underwater viewing of the harbor seals, and even rides on the tramand the bus had his eyes popping.  And I honestly don’t recall any complaints about the heat.

It’s not just the old cliché about seeing the world through the eyes of a child. It is something deeper, something that is ingrained in our heredity, essential to our lineage.  Something without which we wouldn’t have survived as a species.  Shall I call it the desire to give our children joy?  It is certainly a self-reinforcing phenomenon, a positive feedback loop:  when I see the awe on Saul’s face as he places his hand against the hand of the baby chimpanzee on the other side of the glass, I just want to keep offering him more of those experiences.  More and more.

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This poem by Peter Makuck captures for me the yin and yang of this sort of desire for our progeny.  We want to protect them from suffering – they will nevertheless experience sorrow.  We want to convey to them whatever meaning we’ve discovered – they will have to discover it for themselves.  My grandson is the apple, all potentiality and sweetness.  I am the stiffening branch.  I can only hope the ground I leave him, when he falls, is fertile.

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 My Son Draws an Apple Tree

I watch it grow
at the end of his dimpled hand
rooted in white paper.

The strokes are fast
and careless, as if the hand
had little time.

Quick black trunk,
a green crown and in the white
air all by itself

a red splotch,
an apple face with a frown
that is his

he gravely says
looking up at me — the stiffening
branch he falls from.

Peter Makuck
from Long Lens, New & Selected Poems, © 2010 by Peter Makuck, Boa Editions, Ltd.
American Poets Continuum Series, No. 121

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Peter Makuck lives on Bogue Banks, one of North Carolina’s barrier islands.  He was the first Distinguished Professor of English at East Carolina University, where he taught for thirty years until retiring in 2006.  While at ECU he founded and edited the nationally-respected journal Tar River Poetry.  He has influenced a generation of North Carolina poets and writers.

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The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.  Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see nature at all.  But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.    —   William Blake

You can’t write what you don’t notice.    —   Peter Makuck

When I was sixteen I spent ten days backpacking with the Boy Scouts in the southern Rockies.  Twenty-four years later I hiked some of those same trails again with my son’s Scout troop.  This time the climb over Abreu Mesa and up along the Cimarron River was punctuated by green-tailed towhees, Stellar’s jays, the sudden flame of western tanagers.  Where had all those birds come from?  Where were they last time I was there?  The difference was the dog-eared copy of Peterson’s Guide to Western Birds in my pocket.  And looking.  Noticing is intentional.

On April 9 at Barton College Walking into April Peter Makuck read from his new and selected poems, Long Lens.  An apt title.  The poems invite us to accompany the writer during a long career as a poet.  They focus for us the quotidian observations that suddenly blossom into meaning.  And most of all the poems’ images bring things up close — a ladybug that reminds of leaving home; a pelican to release us from bondage; a hawk killing a squirrel on a college campus —  or rather the poems bring us closer so that we can begin to notice.  To notice like the poet notices.

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Wild Ginger

Prey

Coming from the pool
where I’ve just done laps, letting water bring me back,
I’m already elsewhere, thinking
about Tennyson and my two o’clock class
when a squirrel appears
ten feet from the concrete walk, by an oak.

Then a loud ruffle at my shoulder,
like an umbrella unfurled, before a flash glide
makes the Redtail seem to emerge from me

and nail the squirrel with a clatter of wings —
a long scream that strips varnish from my heart
before the sound goes limp.

She presides with mantling wings
over the last twitches of gray as I
edge closer to her golden eye.
She hackles her head freathers, tightens her talons,

holds me prey to what I see, watches me
as she lifts off , rowing hard for height, the squirrel
drooped in her clutch.

Now skimming a lake
of cartops in the south lot, making for the break
between Wendy’s and Kinko’s, she swerves up

sharply to land on the roofpeak of a frat house
over on Tenth.

Some noise from the world snaps me back.
I look about, but nobody has stopped
to look at me or where she stood by the tree,
only ten feet away.  Slowly released,
I move ahead with the passing student crowd,
holding fast to what I have seen.

Prey, Peter Makuck, from Long Lens: New & Selected Poems, BOA Editions Ltd., 2010

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Peter Makuck
http://www.makuck.com/

Featured at Kathryn Stripling Byer’s NC Poet Laureate Site:
http://ncpoetlaureate.blogspot.com/2009/10/poet-of-week-peter-makuck.html

Some persons seem to have opened more eyes than others, they see with such force and distinctness; their vision penetrates the tangle and obscurity where that of others fails . . . How many eyes did Thoreau open?  How many did Audubon?  Not outward eyes, but inward.  We open another eye whenever we see beyond the first general features or outlines of things — whenever we grasp the special details and characteristic markings that this mask covers.  Science confers new powers of vision.  Whenever you have learned to discriminate the birds, or the plants, or the geological features of a country, it is as if new and keener eyes were added.  John Burroughs

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