THE TRIBES ARE WONDERING

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Maybe in their bones or late-night thoughts
the leaders wonder how it ends,
how it began, how one can answer
to and fro the dark. Maybe

the wondering is very small,
a moment between this and that,
stopped in a window just above the sink.
Summer shivers. Snowball disappears in snow.

Who is leader, really, who is led?
A wonderment, though no one lets another
know he doesn’t know.
Puffed chests and roasted turkeys

to grandmother’s house we go.
The motions are protected by a blanket
covering a blank. The young are puzzled
as to why, or who to thank.
.
.
the-tribes-are-wondering
.
copyright Cynthia Jobin, 2014

61 responses »

  1. Well especially now, in this election, I think about this all the time. But, I have always thought about this. The story that gripped as a kid, and has never let go, is, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”
    How come so many of us don’t notice?

  2. Wondering or wandering, life always marches on, and we don’t know where to….or only think we do. “The young are puzzled,” but what can they do but be led into becoming leaders who carry on traditions in the dark?

    Love the poem.

    • “Traditions in the dark…” now that sets me to thinking. It does seem so circular, doesn’t it? For all the progress, there seems to be equal and opposite regress. I’m really pleased you love the poem, mistermuse. Thanks.

    • This poem was written several years ago and, in an odd way, some of the lines even puzzle me. What was I thinking at the time? Was it the same as I see it now? Funny how that happens.

  3. The problem is that the young are not puzzled enough. Regrettably (or not) I am not American. Ariel, on the other paw, is from Montana. So I’ve been coaching her on who to vote for in the election by secret ballot on something other than a thin sliver of paper, which looks too much like a serviette to a dog and invariably ends up shredded. But, I said, a shredded ballot may not be such a bad idea. Woof, woof, was the learned response.

    • Well, if the young are puzzled, maybe they just consult Google for the answer to everything then return to their texting and tweeting. My former partner, who was a mathematician and teacher, was totally convinced that a change was taking place in the hard wiring of the brain among her students. This reminds me of my grandmother, who decried the youth culture of the 1970’s and said: “I’m glad I’m on my way out!”
      A shredded ballot is probably the best kind, this year. But why does the prospect of not voting at all still bother me? So old -fashioned am I! And you really don’t have much time to get that absentee ballot in before the deadline, Ariel. Especially if it’s going from Bermuda to Montana. It’s still hurricane season, you know….

      • I think they bend the rules for Papillons. They allow them to vote before and after the election (whatever is most convenient) and have special chew sticks instead of ballots, which are then studied by a teeth mark specialist.

        • And well they SHOULD bend the rules for Papillons.
          Wow, chew- stick readers!…augurs of bites!….that has to be a really exotic expertise. Although, like everything else in this increasingly robotic world, it may soon be taken over by readers of bytes.

              • Exactement.

                And, incidentally, the major difference between computers and nanaocomputers–and I don’t want to get too technical with you lay people–is that the traditional computer uses a mouse pad whereas the nanocomputer uses a doggie pad.

                • I guess that makes sense….in some universe of discourse. Even as a layperson I can understand that a mouse is a whole lot smaller than a dog. But aren’t doggie pads what are used for dog potty training?
                  Evidently I must be confused. Fortunately I use only the touchpad on my Macbook Air, so I can remain blissfully ignorant of such things.

                • Technically, it’s called a pee pad. Sorry to have to use esoteric computer jargon, but I feel it’s my duty to educate those who have limited knowledge of the vastly scientific area covered by computing and, concomitantly, nature’s call.

                • You always bring such laughter, Prospero, as you enlighten about this tech stuff. .My take-away from all your erudition? If nature calls because one is laughing so hard the tears are running down one’s legs…. to have even a doggie pad nearby would be most preferable to a mouse pad, or a touchpad.

  4. Oh – it’s all in the papers – quite the latest thing: the young have discovered “Mexico’s Day of the Dead”. They’re walking around wearing skeletons and zombie masks. Not a single mention that All Souls is really the day to remember the dead with reverence and affection! (OK – I’ve got that off my chest!)

    Your poem is a reassurance … people know so little. And as some philosopher said (probably a dead one): the more you know the less you know you know…. a blanket covering a blank… a snowball in snow…

    • Isn’t it sad how certain cultural traditions, when they are sloppily expropriated by a speed-oriented, attention deficient crowd, just get crappy. In Mexico, on the Dia de los Muertos, the time is spent in reverence of the dead. It’s not spooky and dreadful. After the religious All Saints practices, whole families go to the graves of their deceased loved ones and spend time there, conversing with the departed, having picnics, singing, dancing…. It reminds me of a lost time when death was considered a part of life.
      Yes, it seems the more we think we know, the less we know. Thanks, my friend.

  5. I first read this one in your book and found it somehow delightfully, if not opaquely, appropo of some life situations……….. But now, I think it fits the American political situation extremely aptly! You are ahead of your time!! 🙂 xo

    • Oh, that’s nice, Pauline, for the space of a poem, to be ahead of one’s time! As I mentioned in another comment, this involves one of those experiences I am sure you’ve had too: you go back and read something you wrote several years ago, and it seems as if it were written by quite a different person. I often experience that with journals, but not usually with poems.
      This one is different, probably because of a certain vagueness in the way the lines sequence, even though they are individually quite ordinary. You’re right….in reading it recently I did find it resonating with current political events here in USA, though I don’t remember its having that kind of link a few years ago when I wrote it. Anyway, it seemed in some ways new to me!

      It’s fun to re-post poems, especially since readership does change over time…it also gives a break in the writing work….a boon in times when one is unwell and tired. I hope you are getting that “spring” in your step, even as we begin to shut down for the cold season. xo

  6. In a poem, the words should be as pleasing to the ear as the meaning is to the mind. –Marianne Moore
    Cynthia, I did not have the words to express my appreciation of this poem so I have quoted above, this poem will mean different things to different people, personally sometimes I am like the “young” in the last stanza, at times I wonder as to why or whom to thank, but in all earnestness I thank you for this poem.

    • I agree with Marianne Moore…though the actual accomplishment of that is another story!
      This poem was written several years ago, when my own thinking and way of writing was at a different place. But in re-reading it recently, I thought it still timely. As you say, it has that possibility of meaning different things to different people.
      Maybe we are all “forever young” in the sense that our search to make sense of life and the world never really ends; no matter how old we get, each bit of wisdom found poses new insecurities, new uncertainties. That’s probably the difference between being alive and being dead! 🙂
      It is I who should thank you, Shubha, for being such an attentive and loyal reader…and so I do—-Thank you.

  7. Cynthia, even your replies are pleasing and meaningful. You are gracious and wise and a wonderful poet. Do you write prose as well? Like essays perhaps?
    Having said that, that your poems say so much in fewer words……the Jacarandas I see from my window as I type this, are a poem!

    • Ah…Jacarandas….I have only seen them in photos and they are beautiful. They don’t grow around here in New England. If I look out of my window now, I see that the glorious colors of autumn are swiftly changing to the dismal grey and brown of November. When the snow comes—which it will soon—it will be another kind of wondrously stark world, of whiteness everywhere, punctuated by a dark regiment of trees….

  8. Thought provoking poem, Cynthia. So much said in and between the lines. The title says it all – indeed, we’re all wondering these days.

    (Sorry to be scarce – we’re getting ready to move in a month or so and things are getting hectic. Will try to continue checking your blog for new posts, though my comments might be brief. But I love your poetry too much to miss something! 🙂 ) Will try to email you soon.

    • I do know about moving…I’ve done it quite a few times, and though there was always the new adventure to look forward to, the process was really awful. I wish you well. Don’t worry about making lengthy comments; I’m happy to know that you are such a solid reader. Thank you so much for checking in….and best of luck with the move!

  9. “The Tribes Are Wondering” is an enchanting poem; it is both very elusive and specific which is a great way to make your readers wonder—-and also a great way to catch them up (or at least me) in my own moments of baffled wonderment. I can feel the blanket covering the blank, but I get no particular warmth from it. It’s a perfect November poem. The juxtaposition of election day and Thanksgiving have never before seemed so pointedly poignant and potentially heartbreaking to me.

    Thank you very much!

    • Yes….why have i been thinking lately of Jeremiah: “Is there no balm in Gilead?” As you say, there seems a sense of “never before” about all the goings on just now, though I suspect it’s an exaggeration. I like your observation about the blanket, and also about how the elusive works with the specific. You are such an empathetic and creative reader of poems, Natalie. Let’s hope the heartbreak, if it occurs, is recoverable.

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