Ode to a Piece of Cardboard – A Philosophy of Life – Writing motivated from Anger – NaBloPoMo Day 12

by Sheila Finkelstein on July 31, 2009

In earlier posts I’ve written how I have used Haiku,letters to the editor and writing from prompts, all as means to gain control over anger. Interestingly, though I am a visual artist, currently using my photography to inspire people to see things newly and in ways they’ve missed, when I am in the depths of a strong emotion, I immediately go to writing. Some of my most profound work has been written at such times.

When I taught Art in an elementary school, I worked from a cart, moving from classroom to classroom. My supplies and cart, when not in use, shared space in one of the school storage closets. Because I used a lot of different materials, my space in the closet was not always neat.

One day, on my way out to a graduate class, I passed the principal by the front entrance. I must have made some comment about the closet, for she stated, “A bomb can go off in your closet and no one would be any the worse for it!” I immediately became furious and ended up handling my rage by writing out at every red light on the way to my class. The following, turned out actually to be an expression of my life and still is what I stand for today.

I wrote:

or, A Philosphy of Life

What’s a piece of cardboard?

It’s the base of a sculpture, or an
integral part of one.
It’s the support for an assemblage;
A cardboard loom for weaving.

It has form, or it is flat.
It’s a surface to work on–
To build a mask; to rest a tray as
plaster is poured;
To keep work safe, as it is moved from place to place.
It’s a support for the paper on which notes
are taken at a museum, on which observations
are drawn.

Skin it. See the corrugation.
Use it for line or texture in a collage.
Cut it with scissors.
Roll it.
Attach it.
Tape it. Glue it.
Build with it.
What more is it?

That is up to you.
You may make discoveries as yet unknown.
I am not the possessor of all knowledge,
all ideas.
I can be the source from which you can get help

to develop your own ideas, your
individuality, your uniqueness.

If I can, I will provide the materials that will
help you make your discoveries, to suggest
alternate possibilities if I can’t.
When you need it, I hope it is on hand.

All of my knowledge is available to you–
all of my expertise.

I hope that these experiences will help
you to use things frugally, with originality;
That sometimes when you are sparked
with an idea
You remember and are aware of potentials
and alternatives.

Pass a pebble, a rock, a shell, a leaf–
A new and different shape (real or in your mind)
Look at it. Touch it. Turn it over.
Return it to its home if you wish,
Or, let it send your mind and fingers flying
in a drawing or a painting.
Use it in a collage.

What’s a feather, a piece of cloth, a strange
shape, a can of nails, a box of scrap wood?

That’s up to you, my dear friend. . .
Up to you to collage your life a rich and vibrant one.

© 1977, 2002 Sheila Bakely Finkelstein

(Note – If you are wondering what happened insofar as the principal was concerned, I placed the typed poem on her desk the next morning before classes started. She never mentioned it to me AND she also never spoke to me about the closet.)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmen White September 9, 2009 at 7:40 am

thank you for this lovely poem….it is so true we never value anything until it is gone and only then do we realise its true worth Everything and everyone has meaning and we all intertwine….I recognise your ability and your lively soul continue to grow and pass on your splendour my friend…with love xx


Sheila Finkelstein January 3, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Thank you so much for the acknowledgment of my Ode to a Piece of Cardboard. I appreciate your observation and insight. Love back to you.


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