“The Admonitions of Beauty”

A few days ago I talked about moments, how unnoticeable and neglected they can be. They’re like fireflies glowing in a jar. The poet’s job is to capture them, describe their essence to a point (leaving real estate beyond that point for the reader), then release them to the skies they belong in.

In that same vein, we have Baron Wormser’s poem “Opinion,” which is about a drive to work. We don’t know if the speaker is commuting in a car or a subway, a bus or a train, but we can all relate to another person (“Merriman” in this poem) talking our ears off with his endless opinions.

In this age and day, opinions are the scourge of the land and the foundational cracks enemies of democracy like to encourage any way they can. Unlike the bad old days, opinions don’t even have to be based on facts anymore because enemies of democracy (both outside and within) are working hard to render that word useless.

But that’s another raft trip, Huckleberry. Baron Wormser brings us back to the theme I’ve been featuring this week: moments, and the lost art of opening ourselves up to such moments.

The enemy, in this case, is not democracies’ many foes but our fellow human beings who are obsessed not with moments in the natural world but with trivia from distractions humans create and specialize in. Read: soy products, diesel cars, and, of course, the New York Mets’ starting pitching:


by Baron Wormser


Halfway to work and Merriman already has told me
What he thinks about the balanced budget, the Mets’
Lack of starting pitching, the dangers of displaced
Soviet nuclear engineers, soy products, and diesel cars.

I look out the window and hope I’ll see a swan.
I hear they’re bad-tempered but I love their necks
And how they glide along so sovereignly.
I never take the time to drive to a pond

And spend an hour watching swans. What
Would happen if I heeded the admonitions of beauty?
When I look over at Merriman, he’s telling Driscoll
That the President doesn’t know what he’s doing
With China. “China,” I say out loud but softly.
I go back to the window. It’s started snowing.


I should note, in light of that final stanza, that Wormser wrote the poem in 2004 under the G. W. Bush Administration. Still works, though, doesn’t it? The Presidents never know what they’re doing with China.

(You can repeat that precept softly. Then go back to your window. Let me know what you see….)

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