Monday, October 1, 2012

The Artistic Side of a President

Jimmy Carter

Today is the 88th birthday of the 39th U.S. president, Jimmy Carter.  Carter, as you may recall, won the election in 1976.  What you may not know, however, is that nearly 20 years after that election, in 1995, he published a book of poetry.  Titled "Always a Reckoning," the book is filled with down home, folksy poems that are reflections on Carter's life and career.  While some trace his early forays into politics, many focus on family and growing up in Georgia.  

Book of poems from a former President.

This slim volume of poetry found its way to my bookshelf many years ago, and I still like to pull it out and read my favorites.  To me, it is interesting to see another side of a person, not just their public face. So, in honor of his 88th birthday, I thought I would share a couple of poems from the book that I like.  The first is about Carter's mother, Lillian, and the second is about fishing. Enjoy!

Miss Lillian Sees Leprosy for the First Time
When I nursed in a clinic near Bombay,
a small girl, shielding all her leprous sores,
crept inside the door.  I moved away,
but then the doctor called, "You take this case!"
First I found a mask, and put it on,
quickly gave the child a shot and then,
not well, I slipped away to be alone
and scrubbed my entire body red and raw.

I faced her treatment every week with dread
and loathing--of the chore, not the child.
As time passed, I was less afraid,
and managed not to turn my face away.
Her spirit bloomed as sores began to fade.
She'd raise her anxious, searching eyes to mine
to show she trusted me.  We'd smile and say
a few Marathi words, then reach and hold
each other's hands.  And then love grew between
us, so that, later, when I kissed her lips
I didn't feel unclean.

Illustration by Sarah Elizabeth Chuldenko (age 16 at the time)

Those who fish for trout
go where beauty is,
where air is incense, where
no poison stains.
Congenial friends may share
these lonely streams,
but they must stay past bend
or waterfall.
Testing oneself is best
when done alone.

We try to learn the secrets
of the stream,
how currents run, what drifts
in quiet depths
or sweeps around the stones
to tempt a fish;
what artifice can stir
the same desire
with feathers and some fur
a barb within.
A trout is never trusting.

We learn by using
simple, ancient gear,
the history of an art--
and we learn patience, too,
sometimes the hardest part.

The solitude,
relief from care,
frustrating doubt
about our angling skills--
these stay with those who fish for trout.

1 comment:

  1. The fishing poem is too true. My dad was always around the bend coaxing those trout by himself while I would have rather fished next to him. Nice to see a different side of a president.