Journal Entry: Why We Need Poetry, the Liberal and Fine Arts

Poem and Art Work by Sibley Fink, Age 7

Jersey tells us he is afraid of foxes. “They creep me out,” he says. I have taken out my cell phone to show Robert the photo of Traci’s fox. It seems to have made a safe place on the roof of Traci’s neighbor’s house. She (I think of this fox as female) is tucked in the space beneath a gable, seemingly for no purpose other than providing a roof-den for the fox. Who knew a fox would climb on the roof of a neighbor’s house? The neighbor must be blessed.

Photo Credit: Traci Thompson

Traci’s dog, Sam, unlike Lucy, my Australian Shepherd herding dog, does not object to the fox. Jersey, when he sees the photo, wrenches himself away and hurries to a distant part of the room where Lynn is preparing a City Light hot meal to hand out to friends off the street, some with dogs I offer a treat. Pastor John has given up telling me I am encouraging people to bring dogs. I think of Walt Whitman saying he “could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d, / I stand and look at them long and long” [“Song of Myself,” Song of Myself and other poems, Counterpoint, 2010, Section 32, p. 107].


And now I record this scene in the journal a student of poetry gave me, her preference for following her calling, as poet Czeslaw Milosz declares the writing of poetry to be: “our hymnic song against death. / And our tender thought about all who lived, strived, and never succeeded in naming” [“Report,” Facing the River, The Ecco Press, 1995, pp. 13-15].

Milosz says we poets are striving “in the same unnamed service” of finding the right words, not looking “for what is perfect,” but “for what remains of incessant striving” [“To Allen Ginsberg,” Facing the River, pp. 36-38], this “practice of composing verses” [p. 38], believing in the sustaining language of art, the “hymnic song” of Jersey and Robert, Traci, Sam and Lucy, Lynn and Pastor John, and our friends from the street. The fox on the roof.

Joanna Kosinska