{#winterlight: wistful pf poetry peeps}

I loved history in school – it seemed an endlessly wonderful story of All These People doing All These Interesting Things! My sophomore year in high school, however, Dave Reedy was my teacher. Mr. Reedy was (IS) a hippie who was caustic about the government, outspoken about “History Is Written By The Winner” and made us students realize – way back even in the mid/late eighties – that what we were being taught wasn’t exactly inclusive, thus it wasn’t wholly factual. It was from Mr. Reedy that I learned to engage history critically, to think of it with my whole mind and not just passively accept what the text said.

Thus, it was from Mr. Reedy I learned that I Would Not Want To Visit History. History has a smell that is stomach turning, and a texture that would make me want to wash my hands – repeatedly. History has soap that is made of lye and tallow, and not much else. History’s water is cold, unless I boil it over an open flame. Dry skin, toasted front and frozen back, scratchy wool and fleas – I’m…certain I’d want to avoid History at all costs.

…Which is why it’s so funny to me that our last Poetry Peeps prompt of the year is mine (also the date was wrong further indication of my involvement): Theme is Wish I’d Been There, or an historical event that incites wistfulness. Wistfulness! But, do I really wish I’d been there?

love lies lying

“I wish I’d been there,”
The kindest sort of falsehoods
told by introverts,
the chronically booked, and those
sparing of tender feelings.

not to mention the lack of modern dentistry

Nits, pease porridge, fleas
Creaky whalebone, bloomers, wigs
Tanners, tallow, smoke and coal –
Grimed with sweaty industry, the
Grubby march of history.

Um… no. No, I don’t wish I’d been there. But, it’s nice to pretend I bound into adventure, unbothered by oh, slavery, bug bites, rodents of plague-passing sizes, stepping unshod (or shod, for that matter), in scat, or eating dubious food like lark’s tongues or tripe. It’s nice to imagine, but let’s be real: I only wish I’d been there because the outfits look so interesting in paintings and pictures. Oh, well.

If you’d like to see what the other wistful Poetry Peeps poetry closes out the year, Kelly is back with a wistful haiku. Laura is here, while Tricia is here. Sara is here, and Cousin Mary Lee is here. Stay tuned for more Poetry Peeps checking in throughout the day. Poetry Friday today is ably hosted by the poet Irene Latham – thanks Irene! Happy Christmas, if you celebrate! Warm hearths, cozy reading nooks, and historically anachronistic comforts to you.

19 Replies to “{#winterlight: wistful pf poetry peeps}”

  1. I realize now that I never responded to the prompts we posted on Christmas. I love both of these, and I agree about the “grubby march of history.” I don’t wish I’d lived in another time, but I would like to visit for a few hours or a day.

  2. Every word of this post — and of BOTH poems — is perfect. And the introvert one made me laugh out loud. So true about history — so often glamourized onscreen but oh, mercy, the grubby march! (Also funny that I just skipped the history part completely in mine — like, that’s how much I couldn’t deal with it.) Here’s to hot water, nice soap and a yummy, non-porridgey breakfast!

  3. Both of these amuse me…yes, we introverts are often able to check the square with simply CONSIDERING attending a function instead of actually going (and being overwhelmed)….been there, done that. And now I see why you mentioned clothes in your comment on my post. LOL. Yup. Those glorious clothes that come with fleas…or whalebone corsets…I covet that of which I know nothing! And yet…as bad as things can be, then and now, I’m also wistful that the delights of our lives may one day be considered annoyances, and even be “dealbreakers” for people of the future…(speaking of which, have you watched Travelers on Netflix??)

    1. @SaraLHolmes: What!? Just CONSIDERING doesn’t count!? SINCE WHEN?????
      I’m adding your suggestion to my overflowing (I’m so slow to watch anything)TBW list. (I’ll never lack entertainment at this rate!!!) I love you for always balancing my overly developed sense of caution – you keep on poking my sense of wistfulness and awe, sister.

  4. My mother taught us that the past isn’t always the wonder that people spoke of with stories of cracker barrels in which one picked out the crackers that didn’t have a bug on them, or waking up with the pitcher of water by the washbowl frozen solid! That’s only a couple of examples. I’d love a peek too, into certain times, and you’ve written it true, its then and now “the kindest sort of falsehoods”. Happy New Year making history, Tanita!

    1. @lindabaie: Probably one of my favorite Old Time stories was of my Dad telling us about using water from a waterbutt/rain barrel on his grandmother’s farm… and finding the mosquito larve in their cornbread. …I mean… there’s protein, but …NO. Just SO much no.

      It was not all joy – but I suspect the people that lived through those times were what made them Ye Goode Olde Days. ☺

  5. Okay, okay. I’ll revise the wish in my poem — I wouldn’t want to LIVE then, just visit to see what this corner of the world (at the intersection of 16th President and What Once Grew Here) looked and felt like. Then I’d come back to now, even though we’ve thoroughly mucked things up.

    Thanks for the dose of reality to temper our gauzy wistfulness for a past that was stinky and as (more?) problematic than the present!

    1. @Cousin Mary Lee: I think the lure of living during that time would be the ease of not worrying about fossil fuels, our impact on the Earth, and about, oh, mortgages and rent in quite the same ways (this was not to say those things didn’t exist, after all!) but I think some of the brutal realities are often really glossed over. And, the smell(s)… I think even a Time Machine could not save us from all of the smells! However, some of them – like air that had never met smoke – would be amazing…

  6. Tanita, I missed the call for this month’s challenge so I am intrigued by what you wrote. The 2nd poem is so much fun to read. I can imagine how you must have enjoyed writing this one. Happy Holidays to you. Maybe a poem will pop up for your challenge.

    1. @cvarsalona: Time got a wee bit away from me this month, so I only made one announcement about the challenge instead of my usual three! Sorry about that! Do keep me in the loop if you complete this challenge! I’ll put up January’s soon.

  7. And, the “grubby march of history” marches on… excellent poem Tanita! Too bad I missed this challenge in between my many Etsy orders of this last month and my classes still going on till just 2 weeks ago…
    Both your poems are marvelously tweaked, make me chuckle, and I love the title in the first. Thanks for spreading your winter candlelight, Happy Holidays!

  8. I have a deep love of movie adaptations of Victorian novels that include the grubby. Hats off to those history teachers who teach their students to critique the story.

  9. Oh, Tanita, I love this! I occasionally wish I’d been a fly on the wall (briefly–and not a disease-carrying fly) in different time periods. But I totally agree. I don’t really want to visit the grubbier times of history :>) I love all the concrete nouns that parade along in your grubby march of history. Merry Christmas!

    1. @laurasalas: Thank you for not reminding me I lack a sense of wonder. I have NEVER been good at the “let’s pretend” part of history where I could just fit in and roll with the stories — I know I’d be wondering why everything tasted weird or smelled bad… and people would think I was Really Weird…

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