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"THE POEM IS BUT BAD, YET TAKE IT ..."

IT’S NATIONAL POETRY MONTH so I’d like to share a page from my book My View from the House by the Sea with one of my favorite poems.

Soifua,

Donna


On the bus back home, I read an early 19th century poem by the Tongan poet and composer Falepapalangi in The Girl in the Moon Circle by Sia Figiel:

If I give a mat it will rot,

If I give cloth it will be torn,

The poem is but bad, yet take it,

That it be to thee boat and house,

For thou art skilled in its taking,

And ever have I joyed

When the ignorant of heart have conned a poem

In companionship with the wise.

The phrase, “For thou art skilled in its taking” intrigued me. Without trying to decipher any cultural implications or translation anomalies, how can someone be skilled in receipt of a poem? By listening, being attentive, letting it sink in and settle for a while, and then revisiting it again. By graciousness in the acceptance, knowing that the listener inevitably hears, at least at first, only the topmost layer of meaning. For what exposes our true self more than the writing of a poem and its sharing?

It often seemed as if I’d picked just the right book from the Peace Corps office shelves or the public library to find special resonance for me within those pages. I’m sure I was subconsciously looking for messages. Sometimes I found them.


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