The Genius of His Own House
For Alex Aldrich
“Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend”,
wrote Robert Frost, Vermont’s first poet
laureate, in 1913 as a caveat to himself
and his readers alike. Live in a town
without a bakery or cake on the grounds
that they aren’t necessary and see what
it’s like; possible, yes, but so damned ordinary.
Law comes first, as it must, in literal speech,
but yearns for something more between
its lines, something moving that doesn’t legislate
but inspires “the understanding of a friend”
and stranger too — a song, a sculpture, a dance,
a painting, a story, a film, a play, a print,
a building, a picture, a poem; complements each
to the rules that put the hum in human.
But who will speak for them like a saint
who’s life’s been changed by a metaphor.
Who sees that unlike things are similar
and even the same — tree life; rose love; grass
time; nothing something; me you.
Someone who’s memorized the recipes for
his grandmother’s cakes. Someone who dances
with the dancer in his seat and then alone
in his kitchen as the “genius of his own house.”
Someone with the tongue to plead the artist’s case,
then herd his cats from around the state into rooms
of their own, someone for whom the case
doesn’t require speaking the literal to inspire
his friends, although he will if he must for pity sake,
someone whose generosity makes him rich,
someone like, no, someone who is Alex Aldrich.
Image top left: Chard deNiord with Alex and Sue Aldrich at a ceremony in the State House marking Alex’s departure from the Arts Council.