Ha Jin, “The Past”

The new school year is right around the corner. Today we started our first history department meeting with the poetry of Ha Jin, which beautifully reflects how we shape and are shaped by the past.

I have supposed my past is a part of myself
As my shadow appears whenever I’m in the sun
the past cannot be thrown off and its weight
must be borne, or I will become another man.

But I saw someone wall in his past into a garden
whose produce is always in fashion.
If you enter his property without permission
he will welcome you with a watchdog or a gun

I saw someone set up his past as a harbor.
Wherever it sails, his boat is safe–
if a storm comes, he can always head for home.
His voyage is the adventure of a kite.

I saw someone drop his past like trash.
He buried it and shed it altogether.
He has shown me that without the past
one can also move ahead and get somewhere.

Like a shroud my past surrounds me,
but I will cut it and stitch it,
to make good shoes with it,
shoes that fit my feet.

I am definitely going to use this on the first day of classes. All the best to those of you anticipating a return to the classroom.

3 comments… add one

  • Rob Baker Aug 19, 2013

    Anticipating a return? We started back two weeks ago. My first department meeting was a run down of the new evaluation system, including student evaluations of teacher performance…hooray!!!!

    • Kevin Levin Aug 19, 2013

      Hang in there, Rob. :-)

  • Matt McKeon Aug 21, 2013

    Good luck! I start meetings on Tuesday. I can promise the poetry of Ha Jin with not be a theme. But the deathless prose of the DOE will be featured.

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