Monday, May 17, 2021

Keeping Track of Chairs

 The first steps in mathematics . . . COUNTING!

      I grew up on a farm and keeping track by counting happened often -- counting chickens, counting sheep, counting the number of weeks until the early transparent apples will be ripe . . . and when I read Tom Wayman's poem in Poet Lore I found a similar habit of relentless counting.    I have not been able to obtain more than short-term permission for posting -- and so I offer here just a sample and, beneath, a a link to the full poem.

from Fifty Years of Stacking Chairs     by Tom Wayman

     Two of these chairs at a time
     are easily manageable, so back at the empty rows
     I fold three and haul them with both hands
     across the space. Next trip I try
     four: fingers on each hand curved
     under the metal backrests of
     two chairs. Fifty years 

     of unstacking and arranging them: centre aisle
     or not? Straight lines or semicircle?
     Then clearing them. Anti-war event,
     community protest meeting, union meeting,
     address by a notable or activist figure
     in a cause I endorse, or by a novice
     or veteran writer, or panel involving
     three speakers. Fractious debates, or
     readings or talks I can hardly stay awake through
     —chair after chair after chair:
     my twenties, forties, seventies. . . .

Wayman's complete poem is available online here.  It also appears in his 2020 collection from Harbour Publishing -- Watching a Man Break a Dog's Back: Poems for a Dark Time.

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