Poetry and Progeny

In terms of firsts, the earliest memory I have of a book that I self-read is this combo of “Whiskers for a Cat and Bilderoo is coming”. When I extend the same question to poetry there is nothing that comes to mind.

Until today.

Thanks to kiddo I rediscovered Eleanor Farjeon and Cats which we read and re-read until one of us had had enough. The poem evokes strong, and very likely false, childhood memories of the stale wooden scent of classroom 2B, my grandpa’s deep voice and my desire to own a cat as a child.

Still trundling through this reverie I stumbled upon this meta gem:

I’ll tell you, shall I, something I remember?
Something that still means a great deal to me.
It was long ago.

A dusty road in summer I remember,
A mountain, and an old house, and a tree
That stood, you know,

Behind the house. An old woman I remember
In a red shawl with a grey cat on her knee
Humming under a tree.

She seemed the oldest thing I can remember.
But then perhaps I was not more than three.
It was long ago.

I dragged on the dusty road, and I remember
How the old woman looked over the fence at me
And seemed to know

How it felt to be three, and called out, I remember
‘Do you like bilberries and cream for tea?’
I went under the tree.

And while she hummed, and the cat purred, I remember
How she filled a saucer with berries and cream for me
So long ago.

Such berries and such cream as I remember
I never had seen before, and never see
Today, you know.

And that is almost all I can remember,
The house, the mountain, the gray cat on her knee,
Her red shawl, and the tree,

And the taste of the berries, the feel of the sun I remember,
And the smell of everything that used to be
So long ago,

Till the heat on the road outside again I remember
And how the long dusty road seemed to have for me
No end, you know.

That is the farthest thing I can remember.
It won’t mean much to you. It does to me.
Then I grew up, you see. 

 

Of course we had to finish with:

Five minutes, five minutes more, please!
Let me stay five minutes more!
Can’t I just finish the castle
I’m building here on the floor?
Can’t I just finish the story
I’m reading here in my book?
Can’t I just finish this bead-chain —
It almost is finished, look!
Can’t I just finish this game, please?
When a game’s once begun
It’s a pity never to find out
Whether you’ve lost or won.
Can’t I just stay five minutes?
Well, can’t I just stay just four?
Three minutes, then? two minutes?
Can’t I stay one minute more? 

As we reluctantly wound up for the evening I had to but wonder if kiddo would one day find a lost part of themselves while attempting to similarly educate a greener, and perhaps artificial, mind.

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Collapse – Jared Diamond

I would rate Collapse over Germs, Guns and Steel – perhaps this is because I am more interested in how functional systems can fail rather than how they came to be functional.

Some passages that shall remain with me long after I’ve finished the book

Life ends on Henderson:

Did everyone die simultaneously in a mass calamity, or did the populations gradually dwindle down to a single survivor, who lived on alone with his or her memories for many years? Did the last Henderson Islanders spend much time on the beaches, for generation after generation, staring out to sea in the hopes of sighting the canoes that had stopped coming, until even the memory of what a canoe looked like grew dim?

Cannibalism amongst the Anasazi:

Some of the bones had been cracked in the same way that bones of animals consumed for food were cracked to extract the marrow. Other bones showed smooth ends, a hallmark of animal bones boiled in pots, but not of ones not boiled in pots. The most direct sign of cannibalism at the site is that dried human feces… proved to contain human muscle protein myoglobin, which is absent from normal human feces, even from the feces of people with injured and bleeding intestines. This makes it probably that whoever attacked the site, killed the inhabitants, cracked open their bones, boiled their flesh in pots, scattered the bones and then relieved himself or herself by depositing feces in that hearth had actually consumed the flesh of his or her victims.

Failing to neither do the Romans nor do as them:

To us in our secular modern society, the predicament in which the Greenlanders found themselves is difficult to fathom. To them, however, concerned with their social survival as much as with their biological survival, it was out of the question to invest less in churches, to imitate or intermarry with the Inuit, and thereby to face an eternity in Hell just in order to survive another winter on Earth.