The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations  —
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do — determined to save
the only life you could save.

 

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Happy birthday, old fool

Dear T.,

1.
Dear self: today you turn thirty-one. Do you feel that? Do you feel your bones adjusting to the weight around your body, to the soul you carry? And have you found out what it meant, to want to be here?

2.
Another year older. I’m not very sure we’re wiser for it, but we definitely have made some choices, haven’t we. Yes we did. Perhaps that’s the thing—to continue making decisions that spur your life inch by inch towards some direction. It doesn’t even have to mean forward or backward, because didn’t we say we’ll try to live spherically, in many directions? Didn’t we say: moving without leaving, and didn’t we do exactly that this past year?

3.
Where are we going, self? Where will our feet take us, where will our mind lead us, where will our body agree to go? What are we willing to embrace this year? And do you feel that, the apprehension that murmurs in your chest like a fluttering bird, the uncertainty that makes you weak in the knees? And will you go anyway?

4.
Have you forgiven yourself for it, the fuck-ups, the constant undoing and redoing? Have you accepted that you will always lose something, and when that happens, the question to ask is: and what have I gained?

5.
Last year you said: Be good, forgive, exist. The year before that: I think maybe it’s time to be found. The year before that: You’re not alone. The year before that: It takes courage to live.

Do you hear it, all the echoes of your past selves trying to tell you that you are loved? The unknown yawns before us, and yes, maybe we’ll fuck it up. And maybe we won’t.

6.
Happy birthday, old fool.

 

after EncounterCzeslaw Milosz

 

Needs and wants

“Most people have more needs than wants. That’s why they live the lives they do. But the world is run by those whose wants outstrip their needs.” — Rules of Civility

Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. […]
The world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

From “Wild Geese”;
Dream Work (1986)

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

 

— Mary Oliver