Once upon a time, without poetry, people were unable “to sow wheat or barley, go out to sea in a ship, make their gods hear them, get well if they were sick, or fight their enemies.” (The Winged Horse). Whatever we used to do of importance would begin or end with poetry. Poetry was originally the work of the people, of all people of any color, rank, position, religion, tribe, or education.
The Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry is committed to this idea of poetry from and for the people. For too long it has been the domain of the academic world. Poetry is not an inscrutable puzzle unsuitable for the masses. Poetry is the language of life, and I believe, that just as it is true with art, when we were young, we were all capable of great poetry. Then, we lost it. Or never got the chance to shape it.
Last weekend, my dad and I were sitting by the museum looking at an iron bird cage and I said I was going to put a poem on it. Maybe he would write me one. He said, “Invisible birds you cannot see, but they always crap on me.”
Then, yesterday, I was at my parents’ house, and he handed me two index cards with a poem on it. I asked, “When was the last time you wrote a poem?” He said, “Never.” Here it is:
Warm summer nights
Cool morning dew
Summer flowers blooming
Of every hew
Hot summer wind blowing
From the south
Rain comes seldom nearly a drought
Fall comes slowly on a cool
The trees start slowly
To shed their leaves
Winter comes quickly
summer and fall
Are hard to remember
Jan. and Feb. are their own
It could rain sleet snow or hail
Spring will come after
March wind then when spring begins
April will be the start
That’s when flowers and vegetables
Will start to sing.
One of the museum exhibits will be poetry by people, like my 79-year-old dad, who have poetry within them but have never written an “official poem.” We may never return to the days when poetry was vital to the everyday life of the community, but we can still create a space where it is allowed to happen.