Joho the Blogpoem Archives - Joho the Blog

August 2, 2014

Douglas Sturm, RIP

I read in my alumni magazine today that one of my old teachers, Douglas Sturm, died on May 6.

The freshman seminar I took with Prof. Sturm modeled for me what intellectual discourse could be like. It set me on my course.

Prof. Sturm was sharp as a tack but never used his analytic skills to make things smaller. Rather, he modeled a way of inquiring into big ideas by asking careful questions, and then asking more questions. He was a brilliant teacher.

Only after I graduated did I learn that he was a committed community peace activist. That side of him did not show up directly on campus. But I would have been very glad to have him as a neighbor.

Thank you, Prof. Sturm. As with all the great teachers, you taught me more than you know.


By coincidence a couple of days ago I wrote this poem. (Remember, we are required to forgive one another’s bad poetry.)

Dead Weight

If the death of each we knew
were stored as we do corn,
we each would have to buy a mule
and load it every morn.

Poor mule it is who in our wake
clip-clops uphill and back.
Poor mule it is who for our sake
stays hidden in its track.

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January 20, 2009

Derek Walcott’s poem for Obama

This is the poem Derek Walcott wrote for Obama. Read it out loud twice. I dare you. I couldn’t get through it the second time. Too weepy. This is a beautiful, beautiful piece.

Forty Acres

Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving —
a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,
an emblem of impossible prophecy, a crowd
dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,
parting for their president: a field of snow-flecked
cotton
forty acres wide, of crows with predictable omens
that the young ploughman ignores for his unforgotten
cotton-haired ancestors, while lined on one branch, is
a tense
court of bespectacled owls and, on the field’s
receding rim —
a gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage at him.
The small plough continues on this lined page
beyond the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado’s
black vengeance,
and the young ploughman feels the change in his veins,
heart, muscles, tendons,
till the land lies open like a flag as dawn’s sure
light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower.

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December 13, 2008

Warlocks and Morlocks: A poem

Warlocks and Morlocks
don’t grok door locks.

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