“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
His voice made me halt abruptly as I walked my dog down a country road. I was listening to a new podcast on my phone. It was a most comforting, soft Irishman’s voice, the kind you know the speaker has depth, an old soul worth a listen with total commitment. That voice was that of Pádraig Ó Tuama, the host of the podcast “Poetry Unbound”, part of the On Being Project He was introducing himself and the podcast. Then he began to read the poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin. Not only was I was utterly transfixed by the way he read the poem, his interpretation that followed illuminated this piece in a way that I never could have in my own reading.
I came late to poetry, the reading and writing of it. To be honest there are few poets and poems I really love. I have been guilty of quick reading, passing over an author’s words like speeding down a road without noticing the scenery. But with Padraig’s reading and interpretations, I am finding new love in unlikely poems. He pays attention deeply to what the author is saying in each line and then makes the poem come alive to the listener. After his guidance, he reads the piece again so you can fully appreciate the poem’s magic.
Each episode’s average time is about eight minutes with new episodes released on Monday and Friday. It’s eight minutes of your life well spent in a pause of contemplation. If you think you don’t have time, all the more reason to tune in.
What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Fourth Grade
by Brad Aaron Modlin
“Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.
After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s
voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—
something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted
Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,
and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.
The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.
And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,
and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person
add up to something.