Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teaching the Humanities

Build a house.
Even if it's the ugliest house
you've ever seen,
build it. Later, you can tear out the windows
repaint the walls, the entrance
way, tear out the wires
and the plumbing along with
some walls to expand
the kitchen into the dining room, or
refurbish the basement with a nice
airport carpet and a
dehumidifier. You might also
haul the junk out of your yard
and fix the hail damage. Roofers
finally have time. Third,
and this is only a suggestion,
get rid of that gigantic
concrete block of a front step and replace it
with something a little more
modest, something wooden.
Stain the deck and patch the pool.
Repave the driveway.
Turn the screen porch
into a bedroom and rent
the attic out to a college student.
Install a new sink in the first
floor half bath. Modular
flooring is popular these days.
Wood burning stoves and
solar panels!!! Anyway,
Fix it up when you have time.
What's important is that you have a place
to sleep. What's important
is the space has been cleared.
a foundation poured.
What's important is that it's there, an idea
any idea, has been made
real. That the process

Not all emptiness is equal.
Some space takes work to clear and some clearings
appear, blown over
by a storm or a
flash flood, a forest fire
or tornado. Maybe a glacier melts
and the promised land emerges,
or the previous squatters
get arrested, or die
or burn the house down. It's possible
for a herd of goats
or locusts to swarm and eat every sapling,
bush, and tree branch within a forty foot radius.
Or for a mole to gnaw
at the roots of a thistle blocking the path
of a few pebbles, blocking the path
of a few rocks, blocking the path
of some large stones, so that a boulder hurtles down
the mountain leveling everything
in its path.
Volcanoes are possible.
Meteorites can raze entire
continents. Paul
Bunyan drug his axe down the gut of America
leaving us the Mississippi. In the beginning
there was but a single crow
fighting with an eagle
on a post
rising from the sea.
It's possible
to find the most perfect place
you never imagined, stoned, eating a carrot
change rattling in your pocket cell phone
set on vibrate, but who
would have the heart to start digging here?
Who would have the money to lay forty miles of pavement?
Who would have the fortitude to be so isolated?

is fun, until you have to vacuum up
the glass and find
a dumpster big enough to hold
the spent 2x4s and bent nails.
Not to mention your mud
pit of a yard littered
with Caterpillar tracks and Hardee's cups.
It's going to take a while
for the grass seed to take root and if it keeps on raining
like this it will all just wash
down the hill. It might be a good idea
after leveling out the soil
to cover it with hay and pound
in some silt fencing
at the crease of the decline.
And hey, if you're not going to re-use
those beams, I know a guy
who could take them away tomorrow,
no problem. Same with
the front doors and the kitchen
windows. Construction waste
is as American
as drywall. The good news
is that you don't need to dig
a new well, or re-pave
the driveway. The phone book already knows
you exist. Besides, it's nearly impossible
to bang nails into air
or hike forty miles with a wheel barrow
full of concrete. It might take
a long time but
you're going to have to deal with
the fact of work. Sorry.
I'll come back
when you're done.