Listening to William S. Merwin read poems last Saturday morning at the MACC put me in a metaphorical frame of mind.
This longtime grower of palm trees in Haiku, who also happens to be the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and the poet laureate of the United States, doesn't just create worlds with his words. He builds an entire cosmos with them.
In his simple, elegant phrases resonating into infinity, time is measured in lifetimes of stars. Elegies are written to beloved dogs. Egrets speak. His poetry maps a state of consciousness where the humans aren't calling the shots.
We are just one species, one consciousness among an uncountable number of other consciousnesses of all the other living beings who share our planet with us.
We all have our roles to play in the animal kingdom.
Watching the ads on Super Bowl Sunday made a similar point. Animals talk. Humans - guy humans, anyway - are hardly the most intelligent species around. An average guy comes in a distant second to a bulldog, intelligence-wise, especially if there's a beer or a bag of Doritos, to attract his attention.
It's more like the Zooper Bowl, where a humble beaver can be a life-saving hero for the guy with Bridgestone tires. Here, Budweiser Clydesdales are obviously a superior form of life, the way horses were in "Gulliver's Travels" - Jonathan Swift's version, not Jack Black's.
For decades now, Super Bowl has been acknowledged as an unofficial holiday in American life, as relevant in modern times as the Pilgrims' quaint concept of Thanksgiving was in theirs.
And while the day is ostensibly about football - played on the field this year two legendary dynasties in a great game that went right down to the last play - it's about so much more.
The Super Bowl is our epic poem, rewritten each year. In some cases, the game itself is the allegory - the victory of the Patriots following 9/11; the Saints' soulful win last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
But more than that, it's about the ads.
They speak for us as a nation ... well, at least the half of a nation ruled by testosterone. They are where we live, they are who we are, they are what we believe and cherish.
The sense that the game itself is just there to fill the space between the ads has been growing for decades.
Now, thanks to the Internet, you can watch the ads without having to bother with the game at all. State-of-the-art tracking is going on to gauge which ads worked - which were worth the $6 million a minute the sponsors were paying for the airtime, in addition to the actual production costs.
But when TV networks started airing previews for the ads last week, two days before the kickoff, I knew we were in uncharted waters.
Previews for advertisements?
Is this wise? After all, how many more Doritos or Bud Lights can our bloated bellies hold?
Having long embraced the notion that Super Bowl day is a relatively harmless celebration of the American male, this year's telecast produced second thoughts. Does being a guy in this culture really require being that dumb?
Which isn't to say great intelligence wasn't used to make that point. Several of the ads played out like entire movies, some on an epic scale, telling their stories in 60 seconds.
Watching a dusty, dangerous Old West saloon break into song to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" was a great warm-up for the superstar's arrival here to play at the MACC's new Yokouchi Pavilion on Feb. 24 and 25.
Along similar lines, Johnny Depp gives voice to an animated lizard in a Hawaiian shirt who becomes the sheriff of an Old West town in the coming comedy "Rango." The trailers make me laugh every time I see them. I don't know why.
While animals were everywhere in the commercials, the day's big winners - according to the reviews, the polls and the morning-after analysts -were mostly automotive.
There was the little Darth Vader and the Volkswagen. Or Eminem -an unlikely but effective new voice of the establishment -with a heartfelt tribute to his hometown, Detroit.
I also liked the one about guys daydreaming about the schoolteacher in her 400-horsepower Camero.
While a Pepsi commercial demonstrated males' seemingly boundless capacity not to have a clue what females are thinking, the ads showed how we haven't missed a beat writing and singing love songs to our cars.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org