"Golden Books" - Songs of Too Much Experience

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Songs of Too Much Experience

Poems by Jane S. Wilson

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Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Batavia, Illinois

Operated by Universities Research Association, Inc.
Under Contract with the United States Department of Energy



Click on Image for Larger ViewJane S. Wilson was born in San Francisco in 1916. She met and married the physicist Robert R. Wilson while they were students at Berkeley. When they later moved to New Mexico during the war years Jane taught English at Los Alamos High School and was one of the women who made significant cultural, social, and intellectual contributions to that frontier community in its formative years.

The Wilsons relocated later to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and they raised three sons. While the boys grew and Robert was on campus Jane wrote many letters and articles, reviewed books, and composed poetry.

Upon becoming Fermilab's "first lady" in 1967, Jane helped "Bobby" develop the Laboratory's thoughtful style and milieu with grace, charm, and wonderful wit. The Wilson years at Fermilab are remembered as bustling and busy with excitement. Once again Jane's many personal qualities encouraged and enabled vital cultural, social, and intellectual initiatives.

The Wilsons returned to Cornell in 1979. Although they are now "retired" in Ithaca, the Wilsons enjoy occasional return trips to Fermilab and also spend time in the mountains near Santa Fe and on the Florida beaches. They have three grandchildren.

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Table of Contents

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Click on Image for Larger View A Souvenir Hunter
Outside the Tomb of Chien Lung
(Beijing 1983)

There is a collage of ruins in my head
From rummaging rubble where too many Caesars bled,
Are buried, gained or lost the spoils of war.
Bits and pieces on the ground. Bits and pieces I have found
And try to remember where it was before.
Segeste? Monte Alban, say?
Chichen Itza or the long white road of Ephesus?
O! I have swept a hundred streets,
Old courtyards from whence all but guides have fled,
Paestum's temples or among Cervetri's dead,
Cyclopean walls, Persepolis' halls,
Time's corridors have echoed to my tread.
And now, again, where Emperors lie
I seek a Dragon's Pearl, a Phoenix Eye.

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Should you seek an explanation
Of the impulse called creation,
Remember that before the shaping of the clay,
The mise-en-scène was made.
Before the Adams and the Eves
There were flowers, there were leaves
In that garden of delight
Lending brightness to the day,
Lending perfume to the night.
So -- when one grabs a spade
And digs into the hard brown sod
With a certain vision of a rose
That's the moment when one knows
What it is to be a god.

The Written Evidence

What will they find when I have died?
Love letters with red ribbons tied?
No. I must confess
My drawers yield only harsh demands
And questions from the IRS
Loosely bound by rubber bands.

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Almost All Passion Spent

Too true, I find
Not much tickles
This aging mind.
Sauces and spangles I disdain
My clothes stay classic
My food is plain.
Ambition has faded.
I've lost every dream.
But -- am I truly jaded
When a tidbit of gossip
The slight hint of disaster
Can make my eyes gleam
And my blood to run faster?

Bleeding John Keats:
(Don't Denigrate Pharmacy)
Antibiotics are on the Way

He turned his back upon his trade
He shut the door upon his shop
Scorning all that he had known
Of powder, tincture and pomade.
What mattered all those drugs and pills
If he could cure another's ills
and not his own?
The future he could not foretell
A future where, upon the shelf,
Lay miracles to heal himself.
But if he could-one wonders would
He have writ so well?

Grandchildren's Pictures
(Ancestor Worship)

No Eastern shrine of rich brocade
This alcove where obeisance made,
Just some kids' pictures that are laid
Upon the mantle in a stack,
Paper icons by Kodak.
Icons where the comforting
Is almost a religious thing.
These small and smiling heirs of heirs
Are answers to primeval prayers.

We're warmed, refreshed; we're full of grace
This corner is a sacred place.
Ancestors worship here.
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If You Haven't Learned to Sail,
You've Missed the Boat

Do you remember, love,
when sitting on our duffs,
Taking long, luxurious puffs,
Drinking with our glass held high,
For sport we didn't give a damn,
We lived for wit and epigram,
"Tennis, anyone?" was just a jeering cry.
Indeed, the only game we recognized
was poker, sometimes bridge.
The exercise we settled for,
A quick step to the fridge.
Now a saunter on the shore
Suffices. Let's admit our crime
Of less than rigor in our vigor.
We're relics of another time.

Give Hate a Chance

Love may make the world go round
But hate can give it spin.
With an enemy there's no ennui,
Just a spurt of adrenalin.
The hurt incurred by a scornful word
Or festering memories of slights
Is the meat that one can feed upon
In slow and thoughtful bites.
As pearls are products of irritation,
One spice of life is aggravation.

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With Crinkled Hair and Sprinkled Jaw

The styles today which rate respect
Are the styles of gross neglect.
A woman's perm unset in wave,
A man's jaw shaggy, in need of shave,
Cases exulting that "less is less",
Cases where chic seems laziness.
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Weighty Thoughts

Well, hello and how are you doing?
Let's have a little chat
About our national obsession
The unwanted possession
Of -- Oh God! -- a lot of extra fat.

From the very beginning
The definition of sinning
lay in Eve's entreating,
"Adam, we're eating,
Come taste it. It's nice".
When they ate, they got fat
And the upshot of that
Was to end Paradise.

A Weighty Thought About
Marie de Medici, Wife of Henri IV

Peter Paul Rubens who hated them lean
Was lucky, indeed, to discover a Queen
Of adequate size, with gigantic thighs,
So like a vise that their embrace
Made madam's bed a peril place
Whence every Gallant emerged Green.

Again, No Weight at All
(A Wedding Party on the Roof)

Behold this topsy-turvy bride!
Is it the Gospel of Chagall
That laws of physics be denied
And gravity can be defied?
Could it be that Newton lied
And never saw an apple fall?
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The Second Sex

Once she was a beauty,
A honey or a "ten".
She's now a hag, a crone
A beldame or old hen.
But what names for old men?

Calpurnia's Complaint

Why is it that Caesar's wife
Has to live her life
To be above suspicion,
While Caesar could
Do what he would
Sinfully without contrition?

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Further Advice to the Virgins
(Apologies to Robert Herrick)

History has little taste
For the ladies who are chaste.
Peruse the pages of the past
Learn that nice girls finish last.

Empress Catherine, dubbed the Great,
Cleo, du Barry and Nell Gwyn
Are certain proofs that demonstrate
A tolerant regard for sin.

Clara Bow and Jean Harlow,
Madonna, Marilyn Monroe
Naughty girls who simply show
That the women whom we treasure
Give many, not a few, much pleasure.

So -- gather your rosebuds while you may
Gather your rosebuds in the hay.
That bed of roses is the bed
Where many a woman gets ahead.

Don't Call Me "Young Lady"

At a certain age you reach the stage
When you're a target for patronage.
An ostentatious caring with smiling forbearing,
A purred assent when less is meant.
Better by far to be plain cruel
Than subject one to this kind of kind
Where the message, "You old fool"
Is mirrored in the mind.

Minerva and Arachne*

Is there wisdom in this
That, armed with a broom
I brush at the high walls of my room
Where an acrobat delights to climb
Swing on trapezes, hurdle on high
As if everyday were circus time?
Industrious athlete! Industrious I!
Sweeping at ceilings, unwilling to learn
Diligence meets diligence. She will return
To dark Corners, where she slyly spins.
Ours is a match where no one wins.

Housewives Lead Narrow Lives

Don't go with a friend to the grocery store.
She'll opt for stuff that you abhor.
If you want chicken, she'll want steak,
As you buy bread, she'll ask for cake.
She'll say that she prefers another brand
Than the kind of pepper you demand.
Alas! Poor ladies! We rely
For identity on what we buy.
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*Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom and Arachne had a weaving competition which Arachne was unlucky enough to win. Minverva then turned her into a spider, spitefully.


In a funny way it seems to me
Today we've attained true democracy.
I arrive at this possibly dubious truth
By spending my time appraising our youth.
Who's homely? Who's comely? I despair
Of piercing a thicket of facial hair,
Beards cleverly cover aesthetic sins,
Loose liverish lips or receding chins.
You need an x-ray to know what's there.

From behind -- yet another confusion
An earring shines by a pony tail
Sneaking a peek seems an intrusion.
The gender gap has closed with a snap
And I wouldn't venture to say who's male.
At any rate, it no longer makes sense
To merrily toast, "Vive la difference!"
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Elegy on the Obituary Page
of the New York Times

The Curfew

You don't need to be a mathematician to know
The way statistics go.
The dice is on the throw but no one is winning.
The thread is being bitten;
The wheel has stopped spinning.
The scythe is on the dry grass and ready to mow.
Fast, fast, much too fast!
We find our future becomes our past.

The Genius, Aged 68

Those who knew him best
Are the ones who do not weep.
You can be the cleverest fellow
And still remain a creep.

This superman was very smart
And surely let us know it,
But if he had a feeling heart
He took care not to show it.

The rules that hold for the average guy
To be mannered and gentle and nice
Are not the standards to apply,
Sheer genius should suffice?
Well, much can be forgiven but not all.

The Dancer, Aged 32

So young, so gifted, hastened on his way.
Abruptly cut off in his prime.
I hope his life was truly gay.
I hope he had a happy time.

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The Philosopher, Aged 84

Responding to his least request
She played the hostess, met the guest,
Drove the car up for repairs
Washed the dishes, mopped the stairs,
Proof-read his papers, handled all finance,
Went to the cleaners with his pants.

She hasn't got one claim to fame,
She hasn't even got a name.
In thirty lines upon his life
just- "lie is survived by his wife".

The Suicide, Aged 52

Here was a woman geared for success
Her life was a board game,
She won or she failed,
She wanted the best,
Wouldn't settle for less,
Daily gathered "Hotels"
or was tearfully "jailed."
No detail escaped her
of manner or dress,
Was she invited? Then
what were they wearing?
Where was she seated
and what did they say?
Finally, wearying of worrying,
tired of caring,
She cashed in her tokens,
refusing to play.

Although we are a democracy
We treasure the measure of our degree.
It's a rare bird without Ph.D.
Who flits in the groves of academe.
But even at Harvard or MIT
The final brevet is RIP.
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An Etiolated Vocabulary

The short naughty words which were stored in my brain
Emergency words for expressing great pain
Words that were meant to emphatically stress
Being pushed to the limit, in utter distress
Are so common now that they're useless to me.
I hear them in movies, on prime time TV
Four little letters but repeated, repeated
There isn't an expletive that is deleted.
The language for anguish is diluted and flat
As "gosh" or as "darn it", as "golly" or "drat".
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Sue Grommes ● Adrienne Kolb ● Rocky Kolb ● Bruce Chrisman
John Peoples ● Robert R. Wilson ● Leon M. Lederman ● Jane S. Wilson
S. Chandrasekhar ● Leonard Euler's Illustrator ● Angela Gonzales
Pablo Picasso ● East Indian Mythology ● 5th Century B.C. Athenian Vase
Painters and Potters ● Hans Bethe ● Fermilab Photography ● Al Johnson
John Keats ● Emily Dickinson ● Jean Lemke ● Marcel Proust
Chocolate ● Lillian Hoddeson ● William Shakespeare
19th Century Illustration Depicting a Mechanical Universe
5th Century B.C. Greek Mythology ● Leonardo da Vinci

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This publication was selected from the treasures of the Fermilab Archives.

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