A Nature Poem about Assessment
No photos today–but a poem with such wonderfully evoked images that I could “see” it clearly.
Author Paul Willis sent it out to “teacher-friends” earlier this week–I feel fortunate to be part of that group, and share the poem with his permission. By the way…he’s got a new eco-fantasy novel (just out in December 2010) and other great books of nature essays (he’s a former wilderness guide and life-long observer of nature) and nature poems–including human nature as one of his favorite subjects. His words about baseball, family, and the outdoors are vivid, and make me want to both smile and tear up at the same time. Kind of like his poem about assessment . . .
By Paul Willis
Ninety-five percent of those who read this poem
will experience a sense of wonder. The other
five percent are wondering how to arrive
at this statistic. For evidence is what is needed.
Otherwise the poem will never gain accreditation,
and no one will want to attend. We could ask
for a show of hands, but some of the readers are related
to the poet, and nothing surprises them anymore.
If the poem is read aloud, carefully trained monitors
could be placed in the audience to count
the number of mouths agape in stupefaction
or in slumber. How many persons are leaning
forward, eager for the next word? This is an angle
our monitors can quietly measure, pulling
from their back pockets a gathering hush
of collapsible wooden protractors.
If all else fails, electrodes may be placed
on the correct lobes of the brain—
or for certain lines, on the genitals.
The results will be graphed on a table of outcomes
in the report that forever after must be stapled
to the body of this poem. Perhaps you have seen
a great blue heron lumbering down a pond for takeoff,
its feet entwined in dripping skeins of lily pads.
The morning sun illuminates the strain of the wings,
the encumbrance of roots and petals
dragging their weight across the dark brown of the water.
The bird never rises. No wonder.