Friday, February 12, 2010


I posted on FB yesterday that I'd finally figured out how to set
up a wireless connection with my new laptop and received some
congratulatory comments. Among them was one from fellow
geneablogger Terry Thornton who sent along lines from a poem
by James Oppenheim. He also emailed the complete poem
to me here and now I'm sharing it with you. I've never heard
of Oppenheim before but I'm going to look for more of his work.

I really like this. Thanks, Terry!

by James Oppenheim
A man named Millener sits up all of an April night in Omaha
Trying to signal the planet Mars and get a reply . . .
It is the time when Mars is nearest Earth
And now the two coasting planets in the Old Black Sea
May hail one another and break those two silences
We call Infinity and Eternity.
Millener has a giant wireless which sends waves so long that sound goes silent
And the waves search through interstellar space
And wash the shores of planets . . .
His wireless is a mouth speaking to the stars . . .
It speaks: and becomes an ear . . .
An Earth-ear so great it cannot hear the flying wireless words of Europe and Ameria
But is tuned only to the heavens. . . .
"We shall soon know," thinks Millener, "whether there are others beside ourselves
in the universe"
So he sends the signals.
Then all night long he waits, watching and listening . . .
His ear is to the void, to the abyss. . . .
But there is no answer . . . the Silence remains Silence.
from A Miscellany of American Poetry 1920. New York: Harcourt,Brace and Howe.
1920. Page 104.


Heather Rojo said...

How is this for serendipity? I used to teach high school in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and so did my favorite poet, Robert Frost. In 1912 there was a strike in Lawrence known as the "Bread and Roses" strike, named after one of Oppenheim's poems....

Bill West said... that's where I'll start looking, with the "Bread and Roses"

Thanks, Heather!

Heather Rojo said...

They celebrate "Bread and Roses" every year in Lawrence, I think on Labor Day (appropriately) or maybe May Day (worker's day). The museum in Lawrence would have more information. I heard the poem on a folk music station recently, set to music by the Kingston Trio or John Denver or someone who sounded vaguely familiar...