I can't seem to find any poems about the college application process. Odd, because it has certainly inspired plenty of emotion, both joy and anguish. The highs and lows of March with my daughter and her classmates have been dizzying. We are ready for a calmer interlude now that all the responses are in, and it's time to choose among the yeses, and soothe away the nos.
National Poetry Month is coming!
It's time to eat some poetry. Preferably brownie-flavored.
The school counselor told me today that I am known by my colleagues as a person who can cry. He also said that's not a weakness. I'm not thrilled with my tendency to burst into tears, or the red eyes and nose I'm left with after I cry, but I'm trying to see my tears the way he said he does. His words reminded me of a poem I wrote a few weeks ago, based on something my eye doctor said to me.
The optometrist suggested eye drops
Because in people my age,
The eyes make tears less effectively.
This has not been my experience.
My eyes make tears quite effectively still,
And in fact, better than when I was younger
And with less experience of all there is to cry about.
I can cry multitudes.
I could donate tears to others,
Less fortunate people “my age”
Whose eyes have somehow lost the ability to produce liquid
When they wail and sob and mourn.
My tears are a salty ocean,
Spilling down my face.
Tears for loss, for goodbyes too often said,
Tears for suffering, my own and others’,
Tears for commercials, greeting cards,
Tears for onions, chopped and diced.
Like the nine-foot version of Alice,
I too can cry a puddle large enough to host a Wonderland swimming party
Of mouse, lory, duck, dodo, and eaglet,
And several other curious creatures.
In my case, perhaps loggerhead turtles (not mock),
Unicorns, a tiger or two,
All carried off in the torrent of my weeping.
Tears that soak handkerchiefs and pillows and shoulders,
Rivers and cataracts and seas of tears,
Tears flowing freely through the hallways and streets,
Rising to the window,
Where I sit looking out at the passing sailors
With these wet, aging eyes,
Eyes that have seen much, and cried about most of it.
Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
Today in eighth grade we reached the part of the story in The Trojan War where Oenone resurfaces. Oenone, as you may remember, is the nymph girlfriend of Paris while he is living as a shepherd on Mount Ida, unaware that he is really the prince of Troy, cast out of the city by his parents when the prophecy said he would destroy Troy. (Honestly, don't these people ever learn? You can't undermine prophecy!)
Paris abandons Oenone when he heads off, panting, to meet Fate and Helen, after Aphrodite promises him the most beautiful woman in the world to marry him, in return for Paris choosing Aphrodite in the beauty contest whose prize was the golden apple. But at the end of the story, Paris is wounded by a poisoned arrow, and guess who is the only person who can heal wounds from poisoned arrows? Yep, it's Oenone!
Paris goes back to Oenone on a stretcher, and she asks him why she should help. Can't Helen help? Maybe she's too delicately beautiful to be much use in time of poisoned-arrow-induced suffering? All Paris has to do, for her to help him, is to tell Oenone that she is just as pretty as Helen. Oenone is waiting...
But Paris just can't do it. He dies instead, while being carried back on his stretcher to spend his last few minutes with Helen. Of course, as soon as he leaves Oenone, she is sorry she refused her aid, and she rushes to Troy, arriving too late, and then getting accidentally killed by the javelin thrown by a Trojan sentry.
Middle school lesson: nasty breakups can come back to haunt you years later. Be nice.
I found out today that Tennyson wrote a poem about Oenone. It's not about the incident we read today, but about the beginning of the story, when Paris has to choose among Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to be the recipient of the golden apple. In the poem, Oenone begs Paris to choose Athena:
Here she ceas'd
And Paris ponder'd, and I cried, 'O Paris,
Give it to Pallas!' but he heard me not,
Or hearing would not hear me, woe is me!
He just can't resist Aphrodite. He chooses doom, for himself and for Troy, and for Oenone.
Or you could listen to it read aloud, if you have nearly ten minutes to spare. Those Victorians liked their long stories as much as the Greeks. (And before you ask, no, I'm not planning to read the Tennyson with my eighth graders.)
But, you guys, what a great story the whole Trojan War saga is! And it's amazing how many eighth graders are drawn into it. I heard Rick Riordan speak at IRA about how middle school is the perfect age for mythology (I wrote about that talk here), and I really think he's right.
I live with my family in Haiti (I used to call it Tecwil = The Country Where I Live in an attempt to preserve my anonymity and that of my adopted country - the earthquake changed that and everything else). I teach English to seventh and eighth graders at an international Christian school. The name of my blog comes from this song.