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Craigville Leadership Council

I thought to get out & explore I’d

have to say something about the

eleven year old girl badgering

the nine year old brother to join

her in the water, nonstop needling

& wheedling that had me wishing

he’d go in & hold her under for

a few minutes—but the father was

on her side.  He pushed the boy

into a beach chair & scolded him

for setting up expectations then

disappointing them. Then he

& the daughter swam out to the

raft.  Along the way she resumed

the call.  “Come out, brother.

Why don’t you come into the

water?”  The week has trajectory:

beginning, middle & end, & we’ve

been here year after year, repeating

the same hopes & headaches—

the longings & dissatisfactions—

mortifications with modifications

that seem to make no difference.

Because this year there is one.

This time—thoughts are clear.

The luck has been fought for.

The boy’s fear & the girl’s

need to call attention to it, without

using the language of belittling

—keeping cajoling, wheedling

& needling free of even the

tone associated with calling

someone chicken—the message

contained only in the

insistence that he join her in

the water—let the viewer &

listener draw their conclusions—

it’s there –the magnificent

midweek realization that time is

short—only this time too short

to waste on regret & resentment

—best to plunge in—divulge

it all or keep it all hidden—just

get it done.  Does the

boy know the audience is on

his side?  Is he deliberately

bringing out the pain-in-the-ass

in his sister so that the

world at large will hate her?  I’m

not sure.  I don’t believe the world

outside the family exists for any

of these people.  I’m not sure

the world outside the family

exists for me.  I keep looking

but so far I only encounter

families—other families, perhaps,

but the same families in the

sense that their weeks follow

the same trajectories—undergo

the same hopes & headaches,

awaken to the same realizations

that time is short, that there is

absolutely no difference between

effort & effortlessness.  That

will & lack of will are almost

indistinguishable, that unmanaged

anger is the troublemaker for sure

—that disrespecting family

—or at least disrupting its

flow—will keep us from

attaining status—that

natural born leaders don’t like

interruption.  That natural

disrupters are perhaps more

dangerous to themselves than

they are to leaders & followers.

That some are not natural-

born, but self-selecting—Can

anyone tell them apart—the

natural born & self-selecting

—it’s important to know

whether a natural born leader

self-selects a follower’s or

disrupter’s path—or whether a

natural disrupter self selects

to lead.  What makes it

complicated—sometimes a

family does the selecting—

sometimes some are born great,

others have it “thrust upon

them.”  You’d expect most

success when all stars align

—nature, self, thrust into

greatness by a well-placed

family, while failure or

worse awaits the follower

who chooses leadership:

the rest of the world treats

her like an interrupting child.

Gerald Yelle

levelheaded: Craigville Leadership Council

It is funny (and unpredictable) the way some moments can blossom into huge fractals of philosophical thought and others can die on the vine. And it’s funny the way Gerald Yelle’s “Craigville Leadership Council” moves from light, narrative lines like “I thought to get out & explore I’d / have to say something about the / eleven year old girl” to the choppy, philosophizing voice found in “it’s important to know / whether a natural born leader / self-selects a follower’s or / disrupter’s path.”  Even if this speaker’s thoughts walk a fine line between sense and nonsense, the poem attests to philosophy’s necessary rootedness in human experience.

But, if philosophy is rooted in human experience, it is also solidly stuck there. Yelle’s speaker can’t escape his own head. When he says, “I don’t believe the world / outside the family exists for any / of these people,” he reminds us of the limits of his own perception. In its several variations, the phrase “wheedling & needling” excellently summarizes the modus operandi of Yelle’s speaker. He is inching us toward some philosophical conclusion that either does not exist or defies summary.

By the end of the poem, the speaker reduces his philosophy into a single image of an interrupting child. Not only does the image indicate the frustration in not being able to speak, but the speaker’s reduction of this lengthy poem into a single image enacts the frustration outright. The image is a disappointment. It is a let-down. But the poem is not its finale. Instead it’s the mental carnival ride toward its finale. And as with many carnival rides, when we come to the end, we are disappointed not only by the caliber of the ride but also by the end arriving so soon.

– The Editors