September 5, 2018

Today I read a poem by a newly published poet, Marvin Artis, in Rattle Volume 24, Number 3, Fall 2018, © 2018 Rattle Foundation.


I have this thing that I was given when I was born.
It’s called a life. I really don’t know how else to
describe it. It’s so big. I can only say what it’s called.

It took me a while to figure out that this big thing was mine,
that I could do with it whatever I wanted.
After I decided what I wanted to do with it,
I changed my mind. Then, I changed my mind again.
I changed it one more time.

Life, being whatever it is, also seems to have its own mind,
even though it’s yours. It’s like your father or mother or son
or daughter or dog. They’re yours, but they have their own minds too.
So, at one point, my life said “no” to something I wanted to do.
Just like that, it said, “no.” I was surprised.

I had this dream in which I was with this beautiful soul whom I loved
who had the habit of telling me how to speak and what

words to use. Finally, I lost my temper and started screaming that nothing
makes me crazier than being told what to say and how to say it.
I kept screaming, “No, no, no, no!”

Life is like that too. It can scream, “No!” even though it loves you,
It wants to be itself, to be looked at and loved for what it is,
Not for what you want it to be, especially when it has morning breath,
Gets sick, puts on weight, loses its looks, its admirers or its money.
That’s when it wants you to reach out, hold its hand, to tell it
that it’s beautiful and that you will never leave it, even though
it will leave you. It’s so demanding, so precious. It’s something else.
- Marvin Artis

When I looked up, I stared into space (actually the open doors of a cabinet filled with dishes and yoga paraphernalia) and without skipping a beat I asked myself, “Who are you? What do you want?” Then I thought maybe I should try to answer those questions every morning. These were not random questions but they have rattled around in my mind for years now. I just turned 75 in May and I still don’t have an answer.

Who are you? I always have Alice’s answer! “Alice replied, rather shyly, `I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I knew who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’ ”

What do you want? I want to be, to whatever degree is possible, loving, kind and compassionate toward everyone and everything in the Universe. Sounds easy – ha!


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