Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On visiting Sterling Hall 6/29/2007

I wrote this poem back in 2007 when visiting Madison, Wisconsin.  My father was a physics professor who taught in Sterling Hall.  Sterling Hall was bombed in 1971 and a student was killed.  There is more about this in the book Rads


On Visiting Sterling Hall June 29, 2007
By Anne Barschall (daughter of late emeritus professor H.H. Barschall)

There is something about that door
That old and dingy looking door
Its concrete ornamentation grayed
By years of not so gentle weathering
Something dingy like the old photos
Of physicists, years ago
Photos I grew up looking at.

I thought the photos merely old
When I looked at them as a girl,
But I see now that, no,
Those scenes were always a bit dull
To the eye.

The fire that burned there
In corridors vilely beige and green
Was the fire of the mind
The lightening of genius within
Not without.

Sandaled feet,
A crop of disheveled hair,
Awkward glasses,
Baggy shirt and pants
Of indeterminate color,
Covering a slender form --
The archetypal physicist --

I saw him again today
Walking through the overpass
Between Sterling and Chamberlain,
No apparent difference having arisen
In 80 years of fashion
For the seekers of the watchworks
Of the cosmos,
His dedication to that same search
Showing in his external sameness,
A grayed and dingy sameness;

And a tracing of new brickwork,
On the building’s façade,
Still tells a story of a different type of fire
That I remember from my childhood
A silent memory of a loud noise
In the night.

I hear they will renovate you,
Monument to vanished memories,
Infusing an aura of newness.
Will they try to make the sandaled gentleman
Wear something spiffier as well?

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