the red wheel
glazed with rain
besides the white
This poem written by William Carlos William, a poet, novelist, essayist, and pediatrician, swishes around my brain and leaps out my mouth whenever it feels it is given an opportunity. This happens, I will start with, mainly because I like to garden. How can I not think of this poem titled, now, “The Red Wheelbarrow” (although it was never given a title by Williams) when I pass my own wheelbarrow in my yard? How can I not think about this imagistic poem when I think of all the other simple and not so simple machines I need to function on a daily basis so I can function as well?
*My husband is currently installing a new dryer since the old one (which I don’t think we even had for that long) broke. For a few days this week I have been line drying my clothes like I am Laura Ingalls on the prairie and our towels have been stiff and coarse and our clothes scratchy. So please excuse my first world whine when I declare “I cannot live like this.” So, yes, “so much” of my selfish comfort “depends upon” my dryer. Judge me all you want—I know who I am. It will not bother me nearly as much as how the jagged panties I am wearing are irritating my lady bits.
So on day nine of our POETRY celebration let’s welcome this simple guest to our party. A guest I knew was coming eventually to this blog being that I have already recited this poem AGAIN to my husband this morning.
I honestly do not remember how it came up. I do remember being excited about new gardening tools that were being highlighted in the garden section of the paper. I was saying how I covet this new weed torch. Rather than using chemicals, you go around and sizzle the weeds to a crisp with this thing. I imagined myself as this gardening bad ass (maybe it’s the panties). A vigilante of the flowers—torching the shit out of those pesky, ugly weeds.
Then my husband said something and I said something and the next thing I was reciting “The Red Wheelbarrow” again. My husband just kinda bobbed his head in recognition. To his credit, he reacted well. But I would not blame him if he just finally vented, “Enough.” You see—I say this poem a lot!
I’m not winning any prizes for my memory. If you just read this short poem, that also works fine as a sentence (once you add the proper capitalization), you will probably have it stored away in your mind as well. It is easy to read and we can easily see this farm setting on our first read. A snapshot of a farm is described to us.
What I have always loved about this poem, in addition to how simply and quickly it puts an image in our minds eye, is that it forces us to remember how “so much” does depends on this simple machine. A machine that hasn’t changed much since Williams seemed to personify it, or at least fill it with so much weight, in 1923 when he published this poem in his collection of poems and prose entitled Spring and All.
A wheelbarrow is basically made up of the wheel and the part you put your stuff in—nothing more complicated than that. Its simple and useful. There is not electricity needed to make it work. It does not have to sync to your wifi. It does not need to be charged. It is hassle free. And still without all the bells and whistles, it still makes life easier. It still is an efficient, needed machine
“glazed with rain
Water another of life’s necessities.
“Besides the white
We all need to eat (sorry Vegans).
What so much depends on is still pretty simple. We still need the same things as we did back when Williams was writing this in between seeing his patients in New Jersey in the 1920s—water, food, and a means.
Life gets cluttered pretty quickly when we indulge so much in our wants that we start to believe they are our needs. Leave it to a doctor, by day, to remind us to live the simple life, and a poet, by night, to remind us how to do it vivdly. Just note when you close your eyes and see the image of the wheelbarrow and chickens, you see a fire-engine red and a bright, pure white. Now go to a real farm and see how those colors are inaccurate with the rusting barrows and dirty chickens. That’s the magic of poetry.
So reread William’s poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow” again and have a simply magical Saturday.