Monday, June 29, 2009

living with truth: pragmatism vs. poetry

how to live alone with persistent feelings of unrequited love:

the past is past. the future hasn't happened yet. all you have is now. be honest in it. accepting the external reality turned out not to be fatal. but have you accepted your internal reality? stop supressing and resisting and eventually these feelings for another, as deep as they are futile, stop hurting. your feelings become a kind of inner white noise. endeavour to use the energy you regain to do some small piece of good in your world with the time you have left.

if anyone asks, say, it turned out it was easier to live with the white noise than to wish one had never loved at all. these days i barely notice it.

if that honesty makes others uncomfortable, or invites pity, remind them, the most efficient path is the way of least resistance. (many people will accept the awkward and harsh reality of being human, if you can pass it off as Zen wisdom)

The Effort

Would anyone care to join me
in flicking a few pebbles in the direction
of teachers who are fond of asking the question:
"What is the poet trying to say?"

as if Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson
had struggled but ultimately failed in their efforts—
inarticulate wretches that they were,
biting their pens and staring out the window for a clue.

Yes, it seems that Whitman, Amy Lowell
and the rest could only try and fail
but we in Mrs. Parker's third-period English class
here at Springfield High will succeed

with the help of these study questions
in saying what the poor poet could not,
and we will get all this done before
that orgy of egg salad and tuna fish known as lunch.

Tonight, however, I am the one trying
to say what it is this absence means,
the two of us sleeping and waking under different roofs.
The image of this vase of cut flowers,

not from our garden, is no help.
And the same goes for the single plate,
the solitary lamp, and the weather that presses its face
against these new windows--the drizzle and the
morning frost.

So I will leave it up to Mrs. Parker,
who is tapping a piece of chalk against the blackboard,
and her students—a few with their hands up,
others slouching with their caps on backwards—

to figure out what it is I am trying to say
about this place where I find myself
and to do it before the noon bell rings
and that whirlwind of meatloaf is unleashed.

- "The Effort" by Billy Collins, from Ballistics. © Random House, 2008. from today's writer's almanac. no profit gained. no infringement intended. buy here


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