November 3, 2009

Spend it Now

The poems I own are like rare coins. They're currency for which there is no exchange rate. Lines that run through my head give me ways of naming the complexities of human experience and emotion. I can use a line from Stanley Kunitz to make sense of who I am now against the palimpsest of who I once was. A Jack Gilbert can remind me that "anything worth doing is worth doing badly." Larry Levis buys me an understanding of how death is like the "lights [going] off, one by one, / In a hotel at night, until at last / All of the travelers will be asleep, or until / Even the thin glow from the lobby is a kind / Of sleep."

If there was one of these rare coins that I could mint and pass out like pennies, it would probably be Rumi's line: "When someone bumps against you in the street, don't react with irritation. Everyone is careening around in this surprise."

If we all had endless supplies of this one to spend, I suspect that rush-hour traffic would be simpler. Bad days would get lighter. A moment of frustration could alchemize into a moment of human understanding and connectedness.