In a town where a man is measured by the height of his truck and the length of his snowmobile track, poetry features right up there with butterfly tattoos and simultaneous lavatory visits on the list of male faux pas.
Come to think of it, the use of French phrases like “fox pass” is likely also on that list. But I digress.
In the spit and fart of rural Canadian maledom, poetry does not register. At least not formally. But lean in close to your computer screen and I’ll whisper a secret: The rough and quiet bushmen in your life are poets.
They’re poets who just don’t know-its. (Exhibit ‘A’)
Ask these guys about what compels them to get up at 4:30 to stalk a buck, look what happens in their eyes when they re-tell turns on the South face of Mt. Such-n-such, listen to one of them struggle to describe a quiet moment with his young daughter, or fumble to explain why he risked personal injury for the sake of the neighbour’s cattle last time the river jumped the dyke. You will almost certainly not hear poetry. But if you’re leaning in close enough you’ll smell the breath of a poet, you might almost hear the thumping heart of one, and if you’re poetically open yourself, you very likely will be handed – plainly and without pretense – a little piece of the intangible.
Truth is, there are certain subjects that simply exceed the capacity, the payload, the GVRW of ‘normal’ ways of speaking. When we aim at these subjects, the targets are so beyond our regular range of thought that we need a heavier calibre.
Sometimes poetry is just the right tool for the job.
An Embarrassment - by Wendell Berry
“Do you want to ask
“No. If you do,
He went ahead:
his prayer dressed up
in Sunday clothes
rose a few feet
and dropped with a soft
If a lonely soul
did ever cry out
in a company its true
outcry to God,
it would be as though
at a sedate party
a man suddenly
removed his clothes
and took his wife
passionately into his arms.
I have professional experience with dressed-up prayers that rise full of promise gracefully off the ground only to hover briefly, shift direction and then land with gentle disappointment. Albeit less – and less by far – I also have some knowledge of the scandalously intimate kind of prayer.
Keeping in mind that I have a large, loud truck, that I scratch frequently wherever and whenever it itches, and that I enthusiastically model many other established rural male stereotypes, I will offer some awkward honesty of my own: Whenever I’ve experienced the real, long-range, maximum-payload kind of prayer, I am not the dominant male with the party-stopping libido. I am the embarrassed wife swept into a quasi-erotic embrace. Straining against it, struggling for decorum, shocked, appalled; I am the weaker vessel at the mercy of the strong and determined grace of God.
So thank-you, Wendy, for the image. You nailed it. Macho never looked so un-macho. But don’t worry, we’ll keep the secret.