Back to Poems from the Hoot


The first week of November was a busy time for the Portsmouth Poet Laureate people.
On the first, we gathered for the Convocation of the Voice and Vision project-standing-room only-at the Portsmouth Sheraton. On the second, we all had to vote. On the third, we found ourselves at the Hoot giving marked attention to some fresh perspectives on difficult times. Neil English's poem "Walkers" was especially prescient:


When our son, Eli, was just learning to walk,
he taught us new lessons every day…
how to see the world through unclouded eyes.

The first time he looked out
and found the ground whitened with snow,
he begged for mittens and scarf,
for red rubber puddle boots
and set out to teach.

After taking a few steps forward,
he glanced back,
surprised to find his tiny footprints
pressed in the new fallen snow.

He called them "walkers."
(That which results from the art of walking, I suppose.)

Perhaps we might all do well
to come to new terms
with that which we leave behind.

                        --Neil English

William Wordsworth it was who reminded us that "The child is father of the man."
The child's spontaneous joy of being in the natural world, of reckoning the significance
of his first steps, is nothing less than a poetic epiphany for the grown-up witness. What is it that the child knows that adults so readily forget? Plato taught that all true knowledge is but recollection. That what we finally come to know as reality, as truth, is essentially a remembering of what we were born with and somehow lost. Neither the poet nor the philosopher were talking about data, about information. Rather, a certain disposition toward the good, the beautiful, the true. We must watch our step. Little Eli knows that.
                -- JP

"Walkers" copyright 2003, Neil English. Neil's poems have appeared in Portsmouth Unabridged, Images of Ruin, and Entelechy International: A Journal of Contemporary Ideas. "Walkers" previously appeared on the CD Sticky Mittens and Angel Feet. He is a preservationist and lives in Epsom, New Hampshire.

Please note: the Poetry Hoot is on the first Wednesday of every month at Cafe Espresso in the 800 Plaza, Portsmouth, NH.   Note: Poems submitted to this column should not exceed nineteen lines.