Commencement poem: 'Land of Never-ending Holes' by Henri Cole

 

Professor of Literature Henri Cole presented the "Land of Never-ending Holes" during the 2016 Claremont McKenna College Commencement.

 

I don’t want you to leave.

I don’t want you to leave this world I so love, where
underbrush, jackrabbits,
     and the desert press in on us.

Waiting under a date palm, with a suitcase and cell phone,
     listening for the train whistle—this is how I picture you.

Don’t strut or you will stumble.

Make your mess into a message.

Make your roof tight and your clothing sufficient,
    and you shall never be wanting if you value “the best
property of all—
    friends” (Emerson).

Remember the Zen axiom: Nothing lasts, nothing is finished,
and nothing is perfect.

Out there is a land of never-ending holes, where brown is the
new green.

Out there are omnivorous, dazzling human voices—coarse
cries, airy falsettos, heady
    blues soul, and solemn low rumbles—speaking and
teaching.

It is never useless to say something or teach someone.

The obscure human soul—it is sad and happy at once.

Men sweep and stir up the dust, but women sprinkle water and
settle it,
    sweetening the air.

Out there, it is swarming, venal, frivolous, vexing, crude, and
hypocritical,
    but you must never cease to listen, look, and feel.

If you love a zebra, do not settle for a tapir.

Think of all you have so far as a shelter made of tarp and rope,
and create
    something bigger.

Uplift, transformation, radiance—when you turn the old horse
toward them,
    he will always pick up his step.

See those bulbous clouds forming over the small San Gabriel
Mountains?

They are greater than any tanks or armored vehicles.

See, out there, beyond the ash, avocado, lemon, and pepper
trees,
    a little trail ends at a highway leading to spin rooms and war
rooms,
    but also there are bee spawn, motion dazzle, and maple
syrup.

I don’t want you to leave.

Out there, in the land of never-ending holes,
    may those who love you love you, as in the proverb,
    but may God turn the hearts of those who cannot love you,
    and if he cannot turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles,
    so you know them by their limping.

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