Thursday, August 19, 2010


I feel wild this week. Wild with anger about the many new one-size-fits-all policies at the kids' high school. Wild to spend the few remaining hours of unscheduled time we have before school starts next Tuesday. Wild to get on the road tomorrow to see friends and take Walker to a chess tournament while Eleanor and Ron stay here to host her birthday party, for which I have already provided all the necessary supplies. And wild about this poem, one that I find seasonal about now, from Tony Hoagland's latest volume:


In late August when the streams dry up
and the high meadows turn parched and blond,

bears are squeezed out of the mountains
down into the valley of condos and housing developments.

All residents are therefore prohibited
from putting their garbage out early.

The penalty for disobedience will be
bears: large black furry fellows

drinking from your sprinkler system,
rolling your trashcans down your lawn,

bashing through the screen door of the back porch to get their
first real taste of a spaghetti dinner,

while the family hides in the garage
and the wife dials 1-800-BEARS on her cell phone,

a number she just made up
in a burst of creative hysteria.

Isn't that the way it goes?
Wildness enters your life and asks

that you invent a way to meet it,
and you run in the opposite direction

as the bears saunter down Main Street
sending station wagons crashing into fire hydrants,

getting the police department to phone
for tranquilizer guns,

the dart going by accident into the
neck of the unpopular police chief,

who is carried into early retirement
in an ambulance crowned with flashing red lights,

as the bears inherit the earth,
full of water and humans and garbage,

which looks to them like paradise.

When you're already feeling wild and get to the point where "wildness enters your life and asks/that you invent a way to meet it," isn't that the point where you feel road rage or checkout line rage or now-you've-made-a-mess rage? Aauurgh!

I like this poem's reminder to take a moment and sit back to admire the world full of "water and humans and garbage." It reminds me of watching the people at the zoo, something I spent some time doing last week when we crossed "go to the zoo" off our to-do list for this summer. The little ones who thought the arctic foxes were "cute" were amusing, and all the different ones who came to stand under the mister to cool off demonstrated a seemingly endless variety.

What's your favorite place for people-watching?


Ronna said...

Outside of my son's community Orchestra/Band Music Lessons is my favorite place to people watch. There is an energy present from the young preteens and teens who have found something to be excited about, and have found other people who share similar interests. It is also enjoyable to be a spectator instead of a participant in the dramatic ups and downs of those teenage years. I like the poem.

kittiesx3 said...

I love people watching when I travel--airports make for great covert or not so covert watching.

I'll join you in the wild feeling.

Valerie said...

When I was in grad school, my favorite place to people watch was when I was out doing laundry. A year or so ago, when my washer went belly up mid-load I discovered that, although is it harder to find a laundry than it used to be, it is still a great place to people watch. Outside our local library is another good place to people watch.
Because we had a hungry bear wandering through our neighborhood recently, my first read of the poem was extremely literal minded---I really like the poem.

Jenny said...

One semester of college, my little sister and I had a break at the same time, and we used to go to the second floor of the library, outside the computer room, and people-watch there. It was brilliant, the best people-watching ever. College students are funny.

FreshHell said...

Anywhere that there are people, really. In line at the P.O., at Wal-Mart or Target, at the movies, in school assemblies, etc.

Jodie said...

Living in a bearless UK My first thought was 'Oooo bears fun' um, no that's not right is it? I like the idea of a woman thinking there should be a bear service you could ring by phoning BEAR, a very practical idea.

Wow school starts Tuesday? Does it seem to have gone by fast or are you politely itching to get them out of the house for a while?

My favourite place for people watching is probably from a chair at the hairdressers in our nearest shopping centre. All life goes past there. The oddest place is this crazy car park near my work. All kinds of things happen there (and all kinds of things appear in the bushes there too).

Jeanne said...

Ronna, oh yeah. Along the same lines--like Elizabeth--I like to watch people at the airport, especially when I'm not actually having to fly.

Valerie, I have to agree that laundromats and public libraries are excellent places for people-watching.

Jenny, yes, college students are good to watch in the library--and also around the dining hall.

FreshHell, oh yes--the P.O. is one of the best places!

Jodie, I liked the idea of phoning for bear service, too!

Summer seems to have gone by awfully fast. My kids are old enough to be good company, and they don't squabble with each other too much anymore, so school seems like an intrusion (especially the 6:15 am waking time).

A hairdressers from which you can see sounds like an ideal spot. But a car park? That's harder to imagine!

Trapunto said...

Have you read the short story "Bears Discover Fire" by Terry Bisson? Another side of bears squeezed out of the mountains. I loved it, and I loved this poem.

Jeanne said...

Trapunto, I had never heard of "Bears Discover Fire" until you asked, and then I discovered that it's on google books and read it. What a great story! There are so many good little chewable phrases--the first one that struck me was about a news report on the bears, and the narrator said they quit watching it because there weren't any bears, just people talking about bears.

Trapunto said...

Wow, that's fast. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I forget instant short-story gratification is now possible. Maybe I need to get me summa that technology. *scratches indelicately*

Lovely irony: just people talking about bears.