Poetry Corner

by Arthur Mampel

The playwright, Will Welch, in one of his plays, has his protagonist, Roger, say to his sister Mabel:

Your house has four bedrooms and three bathrooms and your kids are grown up and gone. You’ve got three cars and a boat you never use. Your husband owns a riding lawn mower, a push mower and a rotary model, but hires a lawn service to do everything. You’ve got three coffee makers in the closet. There are four shelves of Book-Of-The-Month books you’ve never read and a set of encyclopedias that were open once, the night you unpacked them. Your china hutch and antique silver is too much trouble to clean for use. You’ve got everything, Mabel, and you’re still working for more. Greed is what I call it.

God said to the rich man, who spent the energy of his life possessing and accumulating, “Thou fool, this night your soul is required of you.” The soul is the very essence of our being. When the soul is not nourished it is in decline. The soul must be fed! The nourishment of the soul is the primary reason for our existence. To be distracted by the non-essentials and the toys of life is to miss it all! When God said to the rich man, “This night your soul will be required of you,” God was telling us—in this parable-story—that we are responsible for our souls. We are responsible for the ways we live out this brief existence. The quality of the soul is more important than the houses we live in or the cars we drive. It is the most important thing about us! It is more important than our careers or vocations. It is more important than fame or celebrity status. The poet, James Cavanaugh, speaks to our frustration with mere things in his poem, “Like a Boy”:

Will nothing make me feel like the boy who drank cold Pepsis on a summer afternoon
who fell into bed at night, moaning with pleasure beyond sex or success?
I am tired of tax shelters, bored with write-offs, weary of property I do not want,
sick of financial revenge and a strong portfolio.
How does an honest man live upon the earth?
What does he eat or does it matter? Where does he live or does it matter?
To whom does he give away his luxury or is it only important that he be rid of it?
I stand soft among a soft people, hear the bleating about inflation and the sinking dollar,
wanting some discipline my life does not provide, some community beyond man or beast.
Happiness for me is not a state of rest, but of motion,
not some quietude, but an energy, not a peace, but a passion.
I want to believe in far more than a God, who settles things at the end,
or a country that is as unprincipled and vacillating as I am.
There is no rite of passage any more, nothing that makes a boy a man,
certainly nothing that makes a man a man and keeps him there.
How do I live the rest of my life on this earth? What inspires or brings me peace?
Another book, another building, another business? Enough of that!
I want to start a war; a war that will kill no one,
but that passionless part of me that drifts and flounders upon the earth,
so that I might once again feel like the boy who drank cold Pepsis on a summer afternoon
and fell into bed with delicious exhaustion.

Life is more than survival. Earth-life is a privileged moment in eternity. William Blake said, “Eternity is in love with the productions of time.” Earth-life is a time when our souls can evolve greatly. Robert Frost wrote: “Earth’s the right place for love / I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”

Frost correctly summarizes, I think, how ingenuous a place earth is for nourishing our souls and the soul’s need for love. “I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”

Arthur Mampel is a poet who lives in Seattle, Washington.

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