I wrote this in honor of my high school mathematics teacher, Virginia Guthery, who celebrates 80 years of a most influential life this month. Not everyone is so blessed, but many of us in fact owe a tremendous debt to one or two extraordinary teachers, people who were instrumental in leading us to a never-ending search for illumination. Ms. Guthery was that kind of special teacher.


In Honor of Virginia Guthery

How far beyond measure
Is the worth of the true teacher.
That rare soul who
Can lead your soul
To follow the endless search
Into what lies below
And what soars above,
And what connects it all.

Mentor, yogi, rabbi, shaman,
Teacher. The one who
Will not accept less
Than the best you have
And then demands that
Which is beyond your best.

The one who won’t reveal
The answer, but instead
Points to a path that leads there.
Who imparts knowledge,
But especially that knowledge
Which, when unwrapped,
Unfolds into a map.
The secret places do exist,
But only for those who seek.
They are not merely given.

We all sojourn alone.
The barrier between souls
Is infinite, but not
Students trudge in rows,
Endless empty faces,
And the chance is small
That any will encounter
A jewel in the classroom,
Will look up and see
A bright flare that ignites
Their fire to learn,
The zeal to discover.

There is no metric
That measures the worth
Of the ones who make
The universe your doorstep.

February 2017
© 2017 Chuck Puckett

In Memory Of My Mother

We buried my mother, Martha Evelyn Black Puckett, four years ago today. I wrote this at the time. It bears repeating and remembering.

This day is done, and we pass into a future already permanently altered, folding the day’s events into our hearts and minds. We have bade our last farewell, given a nod to the past, while simultaneously, though tentatively, accepting the future. We bow our heads in the acknowledgement that we are now unequivocally a generation on our own, a generation that must either either offer wisdom or else pretend we know it. Too much depends on this eternal fiction that must now transform into an ever-recurring truth.

I say a last farewell: Mother, Father, frail humans who did the best they could with the adventures Aslan sent them. If we do better, it is only because we carefully watched your footsteps and saw where and how you strove against the pitiless winds of existence, dealt with every success and triumph, how you were forged and tempered on the anvil of God.

If we do not, is only because we closed our eyes and ignored the lessons we were taught.

Thanks be to God.

An English Way With Words

Most people, I believe, write some sort of poetry when they are very young. Over the years, this poetic impulse, for the majority, gradually shuts down, as the “real world” overtakes us. I’m one of those who, while not a published poet, continued to write poetry and songs all my life.

And I have a theory (surprise!) w.r.t. the writing of poetry in my native tongue, which is obviously English. Now, poetry is a universal impulse, written in all languages and by all cultures over the millenia. But it seems to me that poetry written in English, to a greater extent than other languages, benefits enormously from the very structure of our language. More than almost any other “common” modern language, the very genesis of English, amalgamated at the Battle of Hastings from the Anglo-Saxon and the invading French, contains ambiguities and overloaded meanings that I think are less prevalent in other, “purer” languages. And this birthmark, I think, also makes English extremely susceptible to continued expansion. Yes, in modern life, all languages accept and incorporate foreign words and phrases (many from English), but our language has had this predilection since it came into being. Perhaps in the same way that people who master at least one foreign language early in life have been shown to be much better at learning subsequent languages. Once the groundwork of an extra language has been laid, the brain seems more disposed to adding other kinds of words and syntax. Perhaps our cultural communication mechanism (ie, English), born in two worlds, is more prone to adding words from other worlds.

Furthermore, the mixed syntactical origins of English have led to (perhaps) awkward constructs in phrasing and sense. As an example, the auxiliary verbs are all over the map. The merging (actually, a sort of re-merging, Anglo-Saxon meeting back up with the Normans, who had taken a deep detour into Latinism) of our two main language DNA strands led to unusual pronunciations and syllabic stresses and spellings.

And for me, it is this resulting ambiguity and combination of soundings that has made English the perfect language for poetry. Phrases and lyrics can contain multitudes of overloaded meanings, like a hologram of intersecting intents. For myself, at least, that provides a power in English poetry that may not be readily available in other languages. Beautiful, transcendent images can be described in any language. But images that can lead to multiple emotional responses, even responses that may contradict each other, seem to me have a greater power to invoke that wordless wonder that the best poetry invokes.

At any rate, that is my theory. I wonder if there has ever been a scholarly or formal investigation in a similar vein? It’s likely. There is nothing truly new under the sun.

My sunset is someone else’s sunrise
My evening is another person’s dawn
My morning ends another’s daylight
My sunrise stops another’s song.
My arrival’s another’s soul departure
My coming takes up another space
My going makes a space to enter
My leaving leaves one to take my place.
My future is all my children’s history
Tomorrows that they knew yesterday
My story builds on older stories
My past has always led me to today.
My stars shine down as others’ suns
My storms leave peace in others’ skies
My life takes only so much room
A room I see with only these, my eyes.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett