Poetry Friday : Two poems for a senior heading west

Poetry Friday is hosted by Myra at Gathering Books
It is that time of year when high school seniors begin deciding where they will spend the next four years of their lives.  I’ve been through this process twice in my own house with my own children, but this year the very first class of sixth graders I taught will be setting off to colleges all over the country.  Yesterday, as I was halfway through my lunch, the door swung open and there was Leo, one of my long-ago sixth graders,  bursting with news: he was heading west this Fall, off to Colorado where he could ski and study and ski and study and ski some more. He could hardly wait!  
I’ve known Leo since he was a baby (his brother was my son’s best friend in first grade), and had the joy of teaching him in sixth grade.  I’ve seen him span the arc of awkward  adolescence to capable young man – there are photographs of the various stages of this on the walls of my classroom – and was just as excited as he was about this grand new adventure that awaited.  So, here are two poems I thought encapsuled all that I wish to say to this fine young man, ready to take on a new world out there in the Rocky Mountain State:


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner

And Rumi’s beautiful poem:

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
From within you, moving out. 
P.S. Who would not be happy with this as your college backyard??!!

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday : Two poems for a senior heading west

  1. Both poems are so appropriate for coming adventures, but I love the line "there is another kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside of you" . Beautiful! And I like that he's coming here to our gorgeous land-don't know which university, but CU or CSU are both in beautiful settings. Isn't it nice to keep in touch with those you knew & taught?

  2. As our daughter gets ready to graduate from college in May and is beginning to explore job careers. I read these poems from a motherly perspective and want to thank you for your beautiful choice. As Mary Lee said she on the brink of testing her wings.

  3. I can never get over Rumi, how "modern" he must have written to inspire all the contemporary-sounding translations. And I knew that Wagoner poem but had forgotten its precision balanced with wide-openness. I can see bringing that one to Kindergarten, even. Thanks for both!

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