Thursday, January 5

A poem about "movement toward the barely possible"

Here's one of my favorite poems. I think it creates some nice images that mesh with the whole idea of running long distances and pushing yourself to your limits. Isn't it all about, as the poem says, movement toward the barely possible.

Letting the Puma Go by Stephen Dunn

I'll make a perfect body, said God,
and invent ways to make it fail.
- lines removed from the poem

He liked to watch the big cats.
He liked their beautiful contempt,
yet imagined how they might change
and love him
and stretch out near his feet
if he were to let them go.
And of course he wanted to let them go,
grateful for the iron bars, the lock.
He'd heard the tiger succeeds
only once in twenty hunts -
the fragile are that attuned
and that fast -
and was confused again about God,
the god who presided here.
He'd watch the tigers at feeding time,
then turn to the black panther,
its languid fierce pacing, and know
it was possible not to care
if the handsome got everything.
Except for the lions.
Hadn't the lions over the years
become their names, like the famous?
But he could spend half an afternoon
with those outfielders,
the pumas, cheetahs, leopards.
So this is excellence, he imagined:
movement toward the barely possible,
the puma's dream
of running down a hummingbird
on a grassy plain.
And then he'd let the puma go;
just before closing time
he'd wish-open its cage
and follow it into the suddenly
uncalm streets,
telling all the children it was his.


Blogger Rebecca said...

I wonder if I do anything that I only succeed in 5% of the time... honestly, I think I'd give up and eat something easier if I were a tiger. Maybe that's not a good thing to admit.

Sometimes, it feels like teaching goes like that--one student out of 20 really gets it. Normally, though, the success rate is somewhat higher...

Sometimes, it seems like it takes 20 times to transcribe the curvy letters below. But really it usually takes 2.

January 07, 2006 8:47 PM  
Blogger BL said...

Sometimes it seems like I fail at most things 95 percent on the time.

Today's run, for whatever reason, was one of those times.

I planned to go at least 9 miles and possibly 11 but I wound up only going around 8. I think I should have took some gatorade. I was feeling a little dehydrated and just pretty much out of it.

But sometimes that's just the way it is, I suppose.

January 08, 2006 3:32 PM  
Blogger BL said...

Another thing I seem to succeed in only 5 percent of the time is dating. But hey, you live and you learn, right?

January 08, 2006 3:33 PM  
Blogger BL said...

It's interesting that two of the regular commenters on my blog teach writing.

I wonder what Jody would have to say about students "getting it" only 5 percent of the time.

January 08, 2006 3:33 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Okay, that was a joke, and I already said that the success rate is higher than 1 in 20. It's only when I'm have a bad day and feeling discouraged that I would feel that way...

so zfhzgd yr lips. :)

January 09, 2006 12:52 AM  
Blogger Jody Bilyeu said...

Rebecca, sometimes I think I'm doing well when I get it 5% of the time. By comparison, I've actually been pretty happy with how the students have been doing lately, coming in at roughly a 6% clip. But I'll be jbfdkagf if I'll let it get me down.

January 09, 2006 9:25 PM  

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