Buckeye Poetry: "The Winnowed Maze" and a little bit of the Bard.

BuckeyePoetLaureate's picture
July 28, 2013 at 8:00p

Fellow Buckeyes, it's been a crazy week, hasn't it?  As I get older, I find myself increasingly bummed when people are unpleasant to each other.  It's overly optimistic to believe that we'll ever purge suffering from the human experience completely, but I suppose that all we can really do is try to minimize the harm we cause as individuals. 


As you can tell, I've been thinking a lot about the big story of the week.  I think I'm in agreement with most people; I just hope that justice is done and that as few people (and their reputations) are harmed as possible.  (Past and future, of course.) 

This is my fourth weekly poem for the site!  Thank you for your kind words and for reading!  Do feel free to contribute if my work kicks up thoughts in your head; that's what poetry and literature are all about!  (And did you ever think you'd see Art Schlichter's name in a poem?)

The Winnowed Maze

Kenneth Nichols

What is a man but the sum of the memories he makes,
the marks he stamps--for good or ill--on those
who know his name?  A couple curious keystrokes
can easily undo a lifetime spent
in service of achievement and of kin.

Three decades out, have Woody's wins outweighed
that sideline tussle?  Can the words of those
he nurtured tame his harshest critics?  Will
Clarett's contrite self-control reform the perception
of those who still see the rebellious young man he was?
Can Schlichter ever cease to be a tale
of "oh, what might have been without his fall?"

Still worse:
The woes of those whose marks were made in fraud.
A headline grabs the eyes, not quite so much
the retraction.  Brian Banks--exonerated--
will live his life in limbo twixt the dream
of gridiron glory and the cold, stark truth
of the winnowed maze of paths he now can see.

EXTRAS: The same theme is present in a lot of Shakespeare (as are all themes).  The past week made me think about what Cassio (from Othello) says about the reputation.  In the play, Othello promotes Cassio for proving himself in battle.  Iago doesn't like this at all, feeling that HE deserved the glory.  Iago therefore decides to ruin both men.  He learns that Cassio is a lightweight drinker.  You can imagine what happens next--Iago gets Cassio really drunk.  (None of us can relate, I'm sure.)  Cassio gets in a drunken fight, leading Othello to retract the promotion. Sobering a little, Cassio laments what he has done to himself and to Othello.  Here's what he says; I included a snippet of the No Fear Shakespeare text that provides the original text alongside a "translation." 

Isn't that a beautiful way to think about the legacy we leave?

(You can read the whole play in a trillion ways.  At the link above.  Through Project Gutenberg.  You can also pick up a crazy cheap paperback copy of the play in a secondhand bookstore that needs your business.)

If you don't know who Brian Banks is, you can begin exploring his sad story here.

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