Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Poem for Wednesday and Franklin's Penn

The Man with Many Pens
By Jonathan Wells

With one he wrote a number so beautiful
it lasted forever in the legends of numbers. With another

he described the martyrs' feet as they marched
past the weeping stones and cypresses, watched

by their fathers. He used one as a silver wand to lift
a trout from its spawning bed to more fruitful waters

and set it back down, its mouth facing upstream.
He wrote Time has no other river but this one in us,

no other use but this turn in us from mountain lakes
of late desires to confusions passed through

with every gate open. Let's not say he didn't take us
with him in the long current of his letters, his calligraphy

and craft, moving from port to port, his hand stopping
near his heart, the hand that smudged and graced the page,

asking, asking, his fingers a beggar's lucent black,
for the word that gave each of us away.


From this week's New Yorker.

It was Adam's fourteenth birthday, so after he played tennis and went swimming with my father in the morning, I took him, Daniel, my father, and two of Adam's friends out to lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. After a nearly half-hour wait to be seated, it was one of the loudest lunches I have ever had, and I don't mean because the restaurant was particularly noisy -- there was much quoting of YouTube videos, the Old Spice guy, Volvic Volcanicity ads, and other things I didn't recognize. My mother came and met us as we were finishing and we walked through the mall to get some boys ice cream and others frozen yogurt (Daniel wanted the former, Adam wanted the latter so he could get green tea mochi on it).

In the late afternoon I did laundry (not yet folded) while Daniel took a walk and did stuff on his computer, and Adam went to the pool with one of his friends. We had dinner with my parents -- Adam had requested Chinese food, but I was so full from my pear & gorgonzola pizza that I had cottage cheese and toast. We had gotten Adam Adobe Premiere and Photoshop several weeks ago after my parents got him his camcorder, which were his main birthday presents, but we also adopted a sea turtle for him and we're going to Breakfast with the Penguins next weekend. Our evening entertainment consisted of Warehouse 13, in which Pete continues to prove that he's a fanboy nerd (for Phillip Winchester a.k.a. Crusoe in this case, so I heartily approve), then the interminable Orioles game that ended after several extra innings with an Orioles victory.

This is College Hall, which houses the University of Pennsylvania's president and undergraduate admissions office, with a statue of founder Benjamin Franklin in front, facing Van Pelt Library.

Claes Oldenburg's sculpture of a broken button in front of the library...

...supposedly represents a button that popped off Franklin's vest when he sat down and rolled across Locust Walk.

Here are my kids at George Lundeen's sculpture of Franklin reading The Pennsylvania Gazette on a bench. This sculpture arrived on campus in 1987 while I was a student.

And this is N.C. Wyeth's Apotheosis of Franklin, which greeted me every morning of my freshman year when I went downstairs in Hill House.

This is Irvine Auditorium seen from the Perelman Quadrangle behind the student union. Legend says that this was built by an alumnus who got a failing grade on the design yet insisted on having his plans used when he left an enormous bequest in his will. It houses a pipe organ with more than 10,000 pipes.

Here is the front of the Quad, a series of interconnected buildings and courtyards whose construction began more than 100 years ago. Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams became good friends hanging out here.

And this is Bennett Hall, home of Penn's English department and therefore the academic building in which I spent the most time as a student.

1 comment:

Isrut said...

The Penn Almanac- the University of Pennsylvania's official journal of record, opinion and news would like your permission to publish one of the photos in this post.

Please contact us at (215) 898-5274 or

Thank you very much!