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Almost everyone I know is a bit grumpy at the moment. Kind of over it. Just done.
A gorgeous Easter weekend here in West Michigan definitely helped, but the semester still has miles to go before it sleeps. Sleep being the word most on our students’ (and let’s be honest, the faculty’s) mind. Don’t get me wrong: in canceling our spring and Easter breaks, our administration and campus COVID-19 taskforce made exactly the right decisions to keep our campus community safe and able to continue learning together in person. I’m so grateful for all the hard work by everyone that has kept us on-campus and in the classroom (and that includes the hard work of the students themselves).
That can’t be under-estimated as an achievement but doing the right thing does have a cost. Last week I was chatting with a faculty friend–a heavy lifter if ever there was one–and we agreed that fatigue was making everyone a little more snappy—whether legitimately or because graciousness reserves were drawing low. And we talked about what might be joy-giving as a way to refuel.
I suppose it’s lucky, then, that it’s National Poetry Month since poetry as a genre helps us both to slow down and to focus. My dear comadre and colleague, Jane Zwart, is my very favorite contemporary poet, in part because of her sheer inventiveness with language, in part because her angle of vision is always revelatory. I never quite see the world the same way after I’ve seen it through one of her poems—and she does it with her characteristic wry honesty. However you’re feeling this morning, I hope this poem brings you some joy-fuel and new modes of apprehending all that surrounds you. Encouragement for the journey that still stretches before us.
"On Beauty and Being Just" by Jane Zwart
It is possible that I have been unfair to them, the flamboyants: to opals, to abalones, to moths more phosphorescent than any eyeshadow I’ve worn— because who knows? Maybe the painted bunting would willingly trade his layered, paint-by-number capes for the robin’s rusty apron. Maybe the hibiscus is not a satellite dish tilting on its stem to overhear the praise of passers-by but an umbrella mortified that day has left it open in a narrow place to dry. Maybe the Northern Lights’ magic is static, escaped photons from the cupped palm of a modest earth, smoothing her skirt. . . . But there, too, I have been unjust, asking the bird to disavow his jaunty beauty, rose mallow to flower rue. Wanting to be fair— let me trade it for plain delight. Let me quit shaming the flame-like things or, at least, let the wind unwinding its argon sarong not mind the likes of me.
This poem originally appeared in 32 Poems, Volume 18.1, Spring/Summer 2020