Aug. 18: Bad Poetry Day

I know I’m a couple of days late, but this post was in need of rumination time.  In memory of this year’s Bad Poetry Day, I found a rather sappy travel poem about South Africa (where, as it turns out, I want to go on my honeymoon on Safari.  Cool, I know).

The Beach at Wilderness, South Africa

I found a shell upon the beach –
A mermaid’s ear, it seemed to me,
And so we whispered, each to each,
I of my home, it of the sea.

A moment’s secrets thus we shared.
What can we know of strangers’ ways
If total immersion be not dared
And seconds traded in for days?

The shell gave hints of an unknown shore
Which calls across the miles to me,
And I must go to learn much more
Across that strange and distant sea.

– Al Crabb
Lexington, Kentucky

This little jewel is rough, sentimental, and poorly rhymed in an age of slant, off-meter and post-modernists breaking every rule of Byron, Keats and Shakespeare.  But even Hallmark poetry can teach us something about longing for someone or something just out of our grasp, and I hate to say this poem does that too.  The image Mr. Crabb ends with is that of an unknown but exciting new adventure somewhere else, and the speaker is pushed onwards, despite the urge to linger in a pretty moment.

This is probably the one thing that I can actually say is unnerving about travel.  Everywhere is so exciting, but eventually even gypsies get bored with, tired of, or broke enough in a place that they must move on.  Imagine sitting in a beautiful place like this, and being so completely void of emotion at the water so clear it reflects the overhanging foliage and you can watch sand crabs walk, imagining their claws clicking like stilettos against the rocks under the water. Yes, sir can I have another mojito at cabana 4?

God that sounds awful.

The problem with being in constant motion is that you can never settle down.  When I have finished my travels (if I ever do, or if you can call my hiatus or lack of funds “finishing”) where will I go back to?  I have no roots, no thing pulling me to a location.  My belongings are stored at my parents’ houses, so I could start there, but I won’t even have an American cell phone number tying me to an area code, a zip code, a county where I have a life.

This prospect is both intriguing and daunting.  I can move anywhere with little to no consequence (besides having to transport my 10 boxes of books, cooking supplies, trinkets and photo albums) as to what is pulling me there.  Will I go to New York, work for a big magazine and reluctantly slip into the buzz of the city that never sleeps?  Can I come back to Washington a third time and start again, after leaving for college and then again for New Zealand?  Will I find something to do in Charleston or LA, can I afford graduate school in New Orleans, or will I become a  career expat and teach English in France? Preferably the south, please.

See, even this simply bad little poem can turn the world upside down when you ask it the right questions.


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