Tag Archives: Paul Anka

Verse: of Fog and Snails

“Art is long, and time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act—act in the glorious Present!
Heart within, and God o’er head!”

— excerpts from “A Psalm of Life“, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

Hi again,

Just about finished going through old papers. And processing them mentally.

Here I present two poems that I wrote long ago.  I’ve put at least one up online before, but coming across early drafts of them has again helped me crystallize some “foggy” memories. These drafts were in that “folder of folderol”, referenced in “Wish I knew, ooh baby.”

As poetry should be, they could have many interpretations. Feel free to try your own. I won’t be offended.

Although they were meant to be ambiguous, the author also intended them to be very, very specific for himself. When you’re done, you will find those interpretations … far below the main texts. Thanks to my memory and those scribbles the thoughts and thought process at the time have become quite clear, yet again.

Crumpled up old poetry drafts

This first draft of the first poem (Foggy Sonnet Breakdown) was inspired in November, 1981. I was having some “issues”, as readers might have inferred from recent essays.  I took a day off work from Boeing (Seattle) to drive up into the Cascades for a solo hike.

Foggy Sonnet Breakdown
[The name is a twist on Foggy Mountain Breakdown, a banjo-based Blue Grass classic created by Earl Scruggs. It pretty much defines the Blue Grass style all by itself.  I learned to appreciate Blue Grass during my grad school years in Nashville, TN.]

Cascade mountain hiking. This is NOT a good idea for the Pacific Northwest in November.  The weather and road conditions matched my mood perfectly; it was very foggy, cold and drizzly. At least I had the roads and trails to myself.  During the drive up and back, and during the 9-mile “forced march” hike up and down Denny Creek (which left me near hypothermia and through which I endured multiple aggressive attacks by swooping Cascade Gray Jays when attempting to snack on my “gorp” — conditions I actually rather welcomed at the time), I composed most of these lines. My notes show that I originally called it “I-90 Fog”.

Later I transformed it into a “perfect” sonnet: not only 14 lines, but also 14 syllables per line.  Here you go.

Foggy Sonnet Breakdown

Praise the Fog around us now: Hides the vileness that we shun,
Protects us from other worlds till another day is done.
Curse the Fog around us now: Hides the beauty that we seek,
Causes us to lose our way and so makes the day seem bleak.

A Fog lies in our valleys, but ne’er upon our true peaks.
Fogs are chosen by the Prideful, as sure as by the Meek.

Fog can be the product of sympathetic tears that greet
The Victims in their own undoings when touched by Passion’s heat.

As for me, I am resolved; for who of us is to tell
If the path I’ve chosen leads to my heaven or my hell?

I wish that I could ask you Fog: “What makes you so damn sure
That we’ll lose sight of our goals, and our patience won’t endure?
For the day is very young and the Sun is rising fast;
Soon she’ll cauterize you canker: free from ourselves at last!”

— Joe Girard © original 1981; edited in 1993 (during another self-induced crisis)

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Ahem.  Well … chew on that a while, if you’d like.

The second and shorter piece, entitled “Snail People” was written in January, 1982.  I had — more or less — accepted defeat (although the Coup de Grace was some three months away).

Do I need to explain Seattle’s January weather?  It’s Dreary and Damp, with capital D’s. That’s D, as in fending off a Dark mood.  Defeats are singular … life is longer: spring and opportunity were on their way. Like Longfellow’s Psalm of Life, it was time to move on; wiser, stronger, bravely and more resilient.

Snail People

See Ye now the snail,
So timid,
It crawls upon the sand.
See Ye now the snail,
I grasp it,
And crush it in my hand.

Poor stupid creatures,
Not knowing
That living in a shell —
Poor stupid creatures
Not LIVING.
A corpse would do as well.

See ye now a man,
So lonely
Within his shell — how strange!
See ye now a man.
I wonder:
Why won’t he ever change?

Joe Girard © January, 1982

Ahem.  Interpretations?  Feel free.

They were written from lengthy and deep introspection.

Hint: There is acceptance of flaws … and determination to deal with them, through faith in self.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say – not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

— from “My Way”; lyrics by Paul Anka, first and most famous English recording by Frank Sinatra.

Author recreates his interpretations, several decades later:

Fog covers parts of the Smoky Mountains at the break of day.

Well here goes. Fog is cluttered and clouded thinking.  It both shelters and obscures; it can be comforting or disorienting.  Mountain fogs tend to lie in valleys; at mountain high points the view is far and clear, for you are above the fog. (Fog is simply a cloud that reaches down to the ground). Climb to be your best self; and the fogs simply fall away.

Such obscuration can be caused by both pride and self-pity. Dwelling on your depths leaves you in the fog; dwelling on positives gets you up the mountain, above the clouds.

The fog, or clouded thinking here, abruptly turns to reference the tears of self-pity.  This is not true victimhood; not when a condition is self induced. The heat of emotion turns tears to vapor, where they re-condense into a fog.

It is of course, about me. I was the victim of my own in-doing.  I accepted responsibility.  Now what?

Yet, it is still early in the day (my life). The Sun is my own fiery self-determination, which can, and will, cure — even if it requires burning the wounds to cease their oozing.

Capitalizations.  No apologies.  Note that Longfellow did the same. These were to emphasize that the subject referenced is me, myself, or some quality of mine. I capitalized and made the S of sun bold, to make that (i.e. my self determination and  willingness to use it to cure, even through metaphoric searing) especially pronounced and memorable. A point of focus. To burn it into my psyche. The sun, like self-determination can both burn and heal.  Simultaneously.

Well, I think that’s it. That’s all I can recall for now about how, why, and when I first wrote it … and what it meant to me. What it meant about me.

Foggy Sonnet Breakdown …
[The idea of fog along mountains ranges and lying in their valleys also came from my years in Tennessee. Each spring a friend and I would make a lengthy vacation at the end of the school year in the Smoky Mountains to hike, camp and raft rivers.]

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Snail People is more about accepting self, dismissing isolation, and moving on. Acknowledging a large world beyond oneself.

Living a small, shallow protected life is a choice.  It can feel comfortable.  But it is self-limiting and leads to metaphoric death: a life void of meaningful interactions.  Yes it is safe, and life without a shell will — certainly, eventually — involve some pain.  Get over it.  Crush it. No one will ever feel sorry for you for long.

So, don’t be lonely.  Shed that shell. Have people in your life. Learn! Time to move on.

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Until next time, I bid you Adieu. And, I wish you many heights above your fog.  And life out of your shell.

Peace

Joe Girard © 2017