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Posted: 2011-08-05

This is from Elephant Rocks, poems by Kay Ryan, Grove Press 1996.

As a former teacher of third grade chicks, I found the first line haunting. I think the rest is directed at teachers, who MUST remain steadfast to their vision of what teaching is supposed to be.

And then the poem gets very personal me. As I shut down my computer around midnight, I always tell myself, "Tomorrow, I WILL work on my book." But the next morning I always take a peek at my e-mail--and there's always something from Porlock. Coleridge claimed he had perceived the whole of Kubla Khan in a dream, but as he was writing it down, someone from Porlock interrupted him. . . and he never finished the poem.


A chick has just so much time
to chip its way out, just so much
egg energy to apply to the weakest spot
or whatever spot it started at.
It can't afford doubt. Who can?
Doubt uses albumen
at twice the rate of work.
One backward look by any of us
can cost what it cost Orpheus.
Neither may you answer
the stranger's knock;
you know it is the Person from Porlock
who eats dreams for dinner,
his napkin stained the most delicate colors.

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