My Understanding of Tea Ceremony
Waldrep’s craft in this poem holds true to his line “the poet speaks precisely so we hear the ‘b’ in ‘lamb.’” The work is crafted so precisely that it must be read one word at a time, to understand the cryptic metaphors. I went to a dictionary countless times during my reading, trying to understand Waldrep’s intriguing and masterful use of words. The Tea Ceremony is an East Asian ritual, that consists of a series of movements and gestures done while drinking tea. The tea ceremony is meant to acknowledge beauty among the troubling facts of life, and foster harmony in humanity and with nature. The symbolism of the ceremony is more important than the tea itself, in the same way that the symbolism of the metaphors is more important than the subject matter. The poem is like a tea ceremony, a ritual designed to purify the reader and create harmony with the world. The poem arrives at this harmony through an analysis spanning from nature to our modern world, eventually finding balance between two extremes.
Waldrep piles metaphor on top of metaphor framing the poem, as a meditation on relationships between the poet and the world. The queen bee controls the hive with her string and pollen, while the poet speaks precisely. The poet misperceives nativity or childishness, as a language he cannot learn, or perhaps refuses to learn. The sick queen medicates to mask her pain, “The sick queen coughs a scratchy patch of plexiglass on which some doctor’s dank prescription branches as a scrawl”; while the poet feels guilt equal to death for indulging in the simple pleasure of music, because the poet sees music as just another form of medication, a life giving power that eventually leads to pain. The poet sees forgiveness here, but also gives clear details of the armies of hell waiting in the basement. The queen fades into a ribbon, an image of her former self. The all-knowing poet reflects the waves on the lake, warnings of the pain of life, but is also aware of the pain the queen bee feels. “It's true, elections fly too close to the furnaces we cannot see.” Finally the poet admits that the queen and he are not so different, “entertaining the same deserted algorithm.” They both share in entertaining the madness of the world. This is a point of resolution. Realizing that although he and the queen bee are different, they are also similar, the poet has found harmony with the world.
Here is a link to the poem: <https://gulfcoastmag.org/index.php?n=2&si=47&s=2932>
A Poem Inspired By Tea Ceremony
The red and yellow leaves
fall on the cold hard ground.
My coat shields my body
against freezing winds,
but I'm late to class
and I need to ride my bike to make it on time.
Winter is always colder from a bike.
I should have planned ahead
and finished my homework sooner so that
I'd have time to walk. But where will I find
the energy, to do my homework sooner?
What other ten minutes of life can I
give up, to spend more time
on my walk to class. I already don't brush
my teeth enough. Maybe if I give up
brushing my teeth all together,
I can enjoy my walks to class.
But then I might have future dental problems,
and clean is nice. But slow
is also nice. Maybe I should sleep
less, or eat better, or give up
on one of my hobbies. But
I need those things too.
For now I continue to bear the cold.
Later in the day the sun comes out,
and the cold like me must yield,
to the nature of balance.