From Exhaustion to Awakening: Photo of the Day Poems #Poetry #Photography #TheGuardian

I found my creative voice again last week! Despite the busyness of wrapping up a school year, I carved out the time to parody Smashmouth’s “All Star,” Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” and The Proclaimer’s “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” as parting gifts to my students. That evening, I felt energized and revived. I even managed to stay awake long enough to read a few poems from Mary Oliver’s Devotions before falling asleep. This is what I had been missing, pushing off time to be creative in the name of being responsible to finish every possible task before me before taking time for myself. In doing so, I never nurtured my creative imaginings, and in my dutiful march through each day, all I became was more exhausted and demoralized.

My wife has been reading Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. She’s told me I need to use it as a devotional this summer, and from the excerpts she’s shared with me, I understand why. How often we neglect our souls in the name of duty! Now, I know how ridiculous and irresponsible that sounds as a husband, father of six, son, and educator. But you can ask my wife, my children, my father, and my colleagues and you will be hard pressed to find anyone who would call me irresponsible or negligent. Yet even more important, I cannot be the best husband, father, son, and educator if I do not feed my soul, that unique “self” God created to be exactly who I am and exactly who my wife, children, father, and students (and colleagues) need me to be. And that is the tension you will find in these two selections from my 2019 series of poems inspired by The Guardian Photo of the Day posts: “Exhaustion” and “Primal Awakening.”


Thursday, May 23, 2019 – Marawi, Philippines – Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Exhaustion

By Vincent H. Anastasi - 2019

This exhaustion is palpable:
            lead eye shadow,
            cotton ball thoughts,
            legs trudging forward
            against the current.
Surely these eighty-or-so students
engaged in their own conversations
wouldn’t even blink
should I sink down into this chair
resting my head against the cold tiled wall.
Like a ruined city beneath two-year’s dust,
I require reviving,
yet not a whole pot of coffee could animate,
no sudden fear activate fight or flight.
I’m beyond that.
I need to hear my name
firmly proclaimed through walls of stone.

Friday, May 17, 2019 – Gunjani, Bosnia and Herzegovina – Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

Primal Awakening

By Vincent H. Anastasi - 2019

I know the beast is wild,
all the raw ferocity latent,
awaiting instinctual activation,
some natural response - predator and prey:
the craving for flesh, to tear,
to exercise nails, size, strength
for more than pots of honey
and symbiotic friendships.
But the orphaned brown bear
on all fours, hardly taller than my boots
peering intently into my eyes
revives the innocent belief
in a hundred acre wood
and a garden of my dreams.

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