Thursday, November 17, 2011

Louis Jenkins and Other Intellectuals

I was shocked when a blog commenter a while back claimed Joe America was an "intellectual".  I hold that intellectuals can speak several languages, French foremost among them, cite Greek mythology and quote Shakespeare. I can't do that. I can't even speak pig Latin.

My daughter is an intellectual. Indeed, she can write Shakespearian sonnets as well as old man Shakespeare hisself. She can work a Rubik's cube in under two minutes. She speaks three languages fluently. She knows Greek mythology, and more important, enjoys it. She can parse a poem and give you six different really deep meanings, all hidden to we obtusians.

And intellectuals don't use words like "hisself" . . . or substitute "really" for very . . . or use made-up words like "obtusians".

But I do enjoy a good twist of the mind. A little humor.

And it is in that vein that I give you my favorite poet, Louis Jenkins.

Yes, his works fall into the category of poetry, which goes to show that you can't read him without stretching your conventional mental framework really a lot.

Louis Jenkins:

Walking Through a Wall

Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot making or driftwood lamps. I got started at a picnic up in Bowstring in the northern part of the state. A fellow walked through a brick wall right there in the park. I said, "Say, I want to try that." Stone walls are best, then brick and wood. Wooden walls with fiberglass insulation and steel doors aren't so good. They won't hurt you. If your wall walking is done properly, both you and the wall are left intact. It is just that they aren't pleasant somehow. The worst things are wire fences, maybe it's the molecular structure of the alloy or just the amount of give in a fence, I don't know, but I've torn my jacket and lost my hat in a lot of fences. The best approach to a wall is, first, two hands placed flat against the surface; it's a matter of concentration and just the right pressure. You will feel the dry, cool inner wall with your fingers, then there is a moment of total darkness before you step through on the other side.

Uncle Axel

In the box of old photos there's one of a young man with a moustache wearing a long coat, circa 1890. The photo is labeled "Uncle Karl" on the back. That would be your mother's granduncle, who came from Sweden, a missionary, and was killed by Indians in North Dakota, your great-granduncle. The young man in the photo is looking away from the camera, slightly to the left. He has a look of determination, a man of destiny, preparing to bring the faith to the heathen Sioux. But it isn't Karl. The photo was mislabeled, fifty years ago. It's actually a photo of Uncle Axel, from Norway, your father's uncle, who was a farmer. No one knows that now. No one remembers Axel, or Karl. If you look closely at the photo it almost appears that the young man is speaking, perhaps muttering "I'm Axel damn it. Quit calling me Karl!"


I take the snap from the center, fake to the right, fade back...
I've got protection. I've got a receiver open downfield...
What the hell is this? This isn't a football, it's a shoe, a man's
brown leather oxford. A cousin to a football maybe, the same
skin, but not the same, a thing made for the earth, not the air.
I realize that this is a world where anything is possible and I
understand, also, that one often has to make do with what one
has. I have eaten pancakes, for instance, with that clear corn
syrup on them because there was no maple syrup and they
weren't very good. Well, anyway, this is different. (My man
downfield is waving his arms.) One has certain responsibilities,
one has to make choices. This isn't right and I'm not going
to throw it. 


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