Saturday, May 29, 2010


Some say that anticipation is the better part of happiness. I beg to differ. To be sure, opening Christmas presents is rarely as fun as wondering what might be hidden beneath, but that is only because of the disconnect between expectation and reality. If what you want does not measure what you get, of course there will be frustration. And if you expect anything to make you perfectly happy, you will never fail to be sorely disappointed. The trick, then, is to know exactly what you are getting, and the sort of happiness that it is going to give you, before you get it. It is a question of proportion. For instance, a trip to Disneyland is, in the end, going to provide little more than fatigue, expense, and sunburns, but try telling that to a young child. Or, again, a '66 Mustang is hardly going to make adulthood meaningful, but ten thousand mid-life crises would beg to differ. Our lives consist of almost-constant searching for the next missing thing, but we look for the wrong things, and in the wrong places. There are only a handful of things we need. Food? Shelter? Relaxation? No, we're not talking about comfort, here. We're talking about happiness. It's entirely different. What do we need for happiness? Faith. Hope. Love. And that last one is the key. Everything else in life is aimed at that one thing. Then, unlike all other cases, in which expectation always exceeds reality, the reality will simply blow all expectation out of the water. As I said before, it is a question of proportion, and the proportion, here, is the infinite to the finite. How could it not be infinitely better than we could possibly imagine?


You pass the earth in endless shade,
a burgher of the night,
unvarying by retrograde
or growth, by gloom or light,
and longing, always longing for
some undelivered rite

to draw your drifting feet ashore
and set them on the sand.
The hours that you laid in store
are staler than planned,
and, still, their passage obligates
such rigorous demand

for stoicism. Why the fates
should ask so much of one,
to bind your frail frame with weights
before you had begun,
I cannot know, but offer trade
of two in place of none.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Sudden Rain

We planted our annual vegetable garden last Monday. The thick soil, which was, until recently, a rough expanse of dirt clods and horse dung, is now neatly stitched with rows of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and swiss chard. On the way to the garden, it began to rain, and continued well into the evening. We came out of it soaked to the skin, covered from fingers to elbows in mud and manure, and, above all, happy. I'm looking forward to the crops-to-come.

A Sudden Rain

The rain is a welcome relief.
Its steady advance from the clouds
is soft as a fugitive thief
that scatters the spurious crowds,

and on each surprising descent,
the woody perfume of the earth
unfurls. No life is ill-spent
when lived in a waterlogged mirth,

where heavenly stoppers release
such brisk reliquaries of air
and water. What glorious peace
prevails within disrepair,

so long as the wolcen will shed
a radiant torrent of tears
that leavens our indolent bread
and opens our ailing ears.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Now and Then

In youth (not to say that I'm out of it yet, though it's getting harder and harder to maintain the facade), it often happens that the things we believe to be true are based on a little experience and a lot of conceit. If we don't know everything by high-school, then we certainly do by college, and parents are fools and authority exists to be questioned. Then, we grow up, and idealism and hope are replaced by cynicism and doubt, and all those starry-eyed liberals suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves walking around in the polished, wing-tip shoes of world-weary conservatives. It does not have to be so. Make no mistake, it is the epitome of naiveté to cling to the high-minded convictions of youth. All too often, they are founded on nothing more than over-excited intellects and narrow-minded views of reality. But, to slip into the disenchantment of adulthood is an equally grave sin. There is, thankfully, a middle ground, where the ideals that once nourished us can be married to the difficult reality that surrounds us. This happy mean can seem, at times, to be unattainable, and, indeed, many never find it. Our mistake, however, is to search for it by ourselves. Alone, we can never hope to reach it; it is only found through others. And what can those others do for us? They can love and they can be loved. This is where the idealism of youth and the realism of adulthood meet. Love without suffering is weak, and suffering without love is unconquerable, but, together, they can forge a happiness which is indescribably better than anything our flawed human intellects could imagine. At this point, I'm sure, you're beginning to question whether I am as distanced from my youth as I believe. All I can say to you is that these things are true, and that if you are unwilling to trust me in this, you will squander your happiness, even if it should be dropped on your doorstep, for when it does come, you will not recognize it for what it is. Love sustains us and love enlivens us, and there is no truer credo than this: the only real happiness we can hope for in this life is found in love.

Now and Then

I once imagined I could see beyond
the surfaces that held the world fast,
a water-weight of knowledge for my bond
and fetter, fitted tightly to the last,

but in my nonage, any scanty sense
was made a fool's wisdom. What is youth,
but seizing on indifferent defense?
To fancy that I contemplated truth

was such a sophomoric disregard,
that, even now, I smile at the thought
of certitude I judged exceeding hard,
but found to be far gentler than not,

and, even now, the axioms I hold
will fall before the truth when I am old.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


We Americans are living lives of gluttony. We spend more than we have and take more than we need, and then wonder why our banks and manufacturers and governments are failing for lack of wealth. Our lifestyle has far exceeded our abilities, and now we must face the realization that the solution to our economic hardship is not going to come from more spending and more bailouts, but, rather, from frugality. This suffering is not an evil to be suppressed. It is the necessary fruit of our extravagance and the symptom of a much greater sickness, and, until we address that, we shall never recover the state of health and vigor we once possessed.


The wild ones of Babylon
are dancing in the street
to strains that scatter fuel on
the fire in their feet.

They caper for a hollow death
and celebrate their sin;
they reckon on a rotten breath
to whisper illness in.

And who are we to crucify
the raptures of the crowd?
When all, alike, are born to die,
then let us die aloud.

This hunger is our happiness;
baptize us not content,
till all the wealth we've born is less
than all the wealth we've spent.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I Wake the Morning

The still and calm of morning is an experience not to be foregone. An early morning makes the days longer, the sunlight brighter, and the nights deeper. It is easy to make a habit of sleeping in, but, thank goodness, my job has me up by 6:30 every day of the week, and I never cease to be grateful for that. The only imperfection I can find in mornings are their brief durations.

I Wake the Morning

I wake the morning to a tribe of birds
who make a merry twittering; a brief
apocalypse of animated words
is overheard from sediment to leaf.

Then, subtly, the sky is on the surge,
the steady march of hours is begun,
and retrograding shadows near the verge
of life and deed and escalating sun.

And where are all my birds, my early friends,
who reveled in the swiftly fading dark?
As others made their leisurely amends,
we restive ones brought closure to the arc.

But now we rise in transitory flight;
your hectic sphere is calmer from a height.