The New Experience

Suzanne Buffam

copyright ©2010 Suzanne Buffam

I was ready for a new experience.
All the old ones had burned out.

They lay in little ashy heaps along the roadside
And blew in drifts across the fairgrounds and fields.

From a distance some appeared to be smouldering
But when I approached with my hat in my hands

They let out small puffs of smoke and expired.
Through the windows of houses I saw lives lit up

With the otherworldly glow of TV
And these were smoking a little bit too.

I flew to Rome. I flew to Greece.
I sat on a rock in the shade of the Acropolis

And conjured dusky columns in the clouds.
I watched waves lap the crumbling coast.

I heard wind strip the woods.
I saw the last living snow leopard

Pacing in the dirt. Experience taught me
That nothing worth doing is worth doing

For the sake of experience alone.
I bit into an apple that tasted sweetly of time.

The sun came out. It was the old sun
With only a few billion years left to shine.

Notes on the Poem

We've already discovered and discussed how Suzanne Buffam can very economically pack rich layers of meaning into just a few words or lines. The lines of "The New Experience" have a lot going on in and between them, and still Buffam manages to keep the entire poem crisp, sprightly and deceptively light. From the opening ... "I was ready for a new experience. All the old ones had burned out." ... you can take from the bright, bouncy brevity of those lines that the narrator is eager for something new, and swift to dismiss the experiences that have gone before this declaration. The process of something or someone burning out, literally or figuratively, is surely neither pleasant nor tidy, but Buffam invests the remains of that conflagration with whimsy. Those "little ashy heaps" and "small puffs of smoke" sound downright adorable, don't they? But whatever has gone up in flames, however charmingly downplayed, has clearly sent the narrator off on a sweeping mission. She flies here and there, to places imbued with history, romance and significance. But then it all comes to a skidding to a halt (albeit gleefully, it seems) with these words, simultaneously wise and a delightful conundrum: "Experience taught me That nothing worth doing is worth doing For the sake of experience alone." The narrator celebrates what experience has taught her in a most lovely and ruminative way, don't you think?

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