December 31: “Advice to Myself”

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

— Louise Erdrich

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December 22: “Manners”

Just because a man pulls out your chair for you
and takes your coat at an elegant restaurant
is no guarantee that he really loves you. You know this,
and so whether he burps or farts over the dinner
like some sort of Chinese compliment
does not much matter to you, whether he subscribes
to the high sanctimony of the right thing
leaves you unmoved and lonely. Once,
like a Turkish princess, you were feted and dined
by all sorts of mannerly people, in a high castle
on the cliffs of Scotland. Now, so many thank-yous
and sincerelies later, it’s the things unsaid,
the warm rudities of late night, that most move you
and you are wild for slurped sounds of the truly decent,
the I-chew-with-my-mouth-open look of the one
you will love forever. Whatever it is that might be said
for the predictable thing, the good manners
you were taught in childhood, it’s more and more
the case of the auspicious oddity that excites you now,
the cool flippancy of the one who invents
his own decencies. Darling, I say to you,
fall to the floor all you want, I ain’t pulling
chairs out for anyone. But what I’ll whisper to you later,
in the orderly dark that comes every night like a good butler,
will be sweeter than all that, believe me,
something you can write home to mom about
as if I were the man who had sent you a dozen roses
on Valentine’s Day, or smiled in the pretty picture,
or paid you the most beautiful compliment in the world—
only more slovenly, baby, more kind.

— Michael Blumenthal

December 17: “Desiderata”

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

— Max Ehrmann

March 16: “Simplicity”

It opens, the gate to the garden
with the docility of a page
that frequent devotion questions
and inside, my gaze
has no need to fix on objects
that already exist, exact, in memory.
I know the customs and souls
and that dialect of allusions
that every human gathering goes weaving.
I’ve no need to speak
nor claim false privilege;
they know me well who surround me here,
know well my afflictions and weakness.
This is to reach the highest thing,
that Heaven perhaps will grant us:
not admiration or victory
but simply to be accepted
as part of an undeniable Reality,
like stones and trees.

— Jorge Luis Borges

March 15: “California Coast”

Not in small painted towns whose color rips
The solitude of shores kelp-strung and gray,
Not in La Jolla, Carmel, Monterey,
Your beauty lies — minxes with rouge-smeared lips;
Not along wharf lines where a city dips
Its dirty fingers in the pile-split spray —
San Pedro, Newport, San Francisco Bay —
Scumming your waters with the bilge of ships:

Yours is a torn and wistful beauty, born
On lonely beaches when the tide is low —
Fog tangled in the marsh-grass… a forlorn
Blue heron wading in the afterglow…
Dull silver lapping on a wet sand-bar…
And lost wings circling near a ghost-white star.

— Doris Caldwell