In Elinor Gordon Blair -- my English teacher during my junior and senior years at Indiana Joint High School in Indiana, Pennsylvania -- I found a woman who became a life-long inspiration to me. An insatiable reader and always curious, Elinor Blair seemed to learn from every thing that came along. Such an excellent strategy -- and I learned it from her.
Mrs Blair -- is my habit to continue to call her by this formal name -- still lives in Indiana and she is 99 years old. Three years ago she published a poetry collection, It Crossed My Mind. These following stanzas from Blair's collection use imagery from geometry to describe the destructive way in which "skeletons of steel" have remade our American landscapes.
Thank you, Mrs. Blair, for these lines and for the ways you have enriched my life.
Giants stride across our land.
Invaders from a nightmare world
pace measured miles in unison.
Pine and hemlock, birch and ash --
wheat and corn give way.
Roman straight --
Ignoring mountains, rivers -- marching,
marking a new map of the continent.
underscore their strength.
Slashing the sunrise, stalking by moon,
they tyrannize the landscape:
gaunt figures numbering thousands --
towering skeletons of steel,
steadied on concrete feet, deep set --
Headless, building nothing.
Heartless, all destroying.
bearing perverse cables
on galvanic shoulders.
Because these creatures conquer
in the righteous name of Progress,
they are not stopped.
This link leads to a four-part poem written to honor several of the teachers who have most influenced me; three of them are mathematics teacher, the fourth is Mrs. Blair.