Friday, May 06, 2011

Pacific Grove

I don't remember a single fact
about the elephant seals of Año Nuevo,
or the conversations I had with friends
who spent the day whale watching,
certainly not what we ate
that night in the dining hall,
or why I decided to run ahead
of my classmates and teachers
back to our lodge.

There I discovered our bus driver
playing the piano in the lobby.
He stopped when he realized
I was there, and went to his room.
No one else heard him play.
I was the unwelcome audience.

I was moody that night
and couldn't explain that I was sad
because my own enthusiasm
had broken something magical.

That unregarded man played
such beautiful music with hands
that had brought us there safely.
I would not even remember him
were it not for the broken music,
and what I really learned that night.

* * * * *

This poem was revised in response to the prompt from Big Tent Poetry to revise a poem from about a year ago.

The first version was originally written in response to the day twelve prompt to write about a city at Poetic Asides last year, in April 2010.


  1. I can visualize the scene and the piano playing. There's a poignancy and a loss of innocence in this poem. Wonderfully realized.


  2. Linda, thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you could visualize that scene; that memory is at the heart of the poem.


  3. Beautifully painted scene, Richard.


  4. Richard- Very touching! I love seeing the difference b/t the two. I really like the first one, but the second one adds so much emotional depth and personalizes the poem.

  5. Richard, This is beautiful. After the first stanza I stopped and tried to guess what would cause you to not remember a single fact. I expected trauma, not profundity. There's a bit of both in the experience. The pain of both boy and man resonate.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  6. This is a very moving poem. I could see the scene so clearly, and feel the boy's sadness after. I especially love "the hands that had brought us there safely."


  7. Richard, this is a beautiful poem. I understand why you remember the bus driver playing beautiful music more than other things. I am sorry he left when you were there as audience. I have been privy to private concerts like this too. Awe inspiring when they happen.

  8. Pamela, thank you. The original seems so spare now in contrast.

    Laurie, thank you. There was so much more there; I enjoyed revising this poem and finding the emotional depth there that wasn't in the first draft.

    Brenda, as always, thank you for your kind words. It was a little traumatic, but more profound for me, a growing up lesson I'll never forget.

    Sherry, thank you. I like that line too; I wanted to contrast what he chose to do with what he had to do without coming out and saying it as I did in the first draft.

    Mary, thank you. I wish I had been able to not interrupt him and let him enjoy playing - and me listening. I am sorry too, even now.

    Thank you so much to everyone who has read this poem and commented. I went away for the Mother's Day weekend and am just now (Monday evening) getting caught up. This poem is based on real experiences I had and is personal to me, so I appreciate the kind words more than I can say in words. Thank you.

  9. Richard, in regard to your comment above. I could sense it was personal, based on real experience. You write a lot of that kind of poetry, which is what I like.

    P.S. You might want to check the Poets United site today!

  10. Mary, thank you so much. I don't know what to say, except "thank you".

    I've been waiting for a little while now to be added as a member at Poets United, and I got the email notifying me that I was added just a couple of days ago. I was so excited about that. And now this...

    I am flabbergasted. Thank you so much for honoring my writing by selecting "Scriptures and Strictures" as the Poem of the Week. My wife is going to be mad at me because she won't be able to get my fat head through the door. All kidding aside, I am deeply honored. Thank you.

    What gets me is you left it there as a postscript - and I want to shout it from the rooftops.


  11. I just found your blog this morning thanks to Mary and Poetic Asides, and WOW! Your poetry in general speaks to me and this one strikes straight to the heart with the story of the real lesson when your enthusiasm broke the music.
    i just love this poem. I hope it gets lots of exposure. And I'm signing up right now to follow your blog. I want more of your insights.