XII Mon. February  hath xxviii days
By Benjamin Franklin
Man’s rich with little, were his Judgment true,
Nature is frugal, and her Wants are few;
Those few Wants answer’d, bring sincere Delights,
But Fools create themselves new Appetites.
Fancy and Pride seek Things at vast Expence,
Which relish not to nor to
Like Cats in Airpumps, to subsist we strive
On Joys too thin to keep the Soul alive.
I know my friend is going,
though she still sits there
across from me in the restaurant,
and leans over the table to dip
her bread in the oil on my plate; I know
how thick her hair used to be,
and what it takes for her to discard
her man’s cap partway through our meal,
to look straight at the young waiter
and smile when he asks
how we are liking it. She eats
as though starving—chicken, dolmata,
the buttery flakes of filo—
and what’s killing her
eats, too. I watch her lift
a glistening black olive and peel
the meat from the pit, watch
her fine long fingers, and her face,
puffy from medication. She lowers
her eyes to the food, pretending
not to know what I know. She’s going.
And we go on eating.
How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you quit a thing that you like a lot?
You may talk of pluck; it’s an easy word,
And where’er you go it is often heard;
But can you tell to a jot or guess
Just how much courage you now possess?
You may stand to trouble and keep your grin,
But have you tackled self-discipline?
Have you ever issued commands to you
To quit the things that you like to do,
And then, when tempted and sorely swayed,
Those rigid orders have you obeyed?
Don’t boast of your grit till you’ve tried it out,
Nor prate to men of your courage stout,
For it’s easy enough to retain a grin
In the face of a fight there’s a chance to win,
But the sort of grit that is good to own
Is the stuff you need when you’re all alone.
How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?
Have you ever tested yourself to know
How far with yourself your will can go?
If you want to know if you have grit,
Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.
It’s bully sport and it’s open fight;
It will keep you busy both day and night;
For the toughest kind of a game you’ll find
Is to make your body obey your mind.
And you never will know what is meant by grit
Unless there’s something you’ve tried to quit.
of time. Of there not being
enough of it.
My girl came to the study
and said Help me;
I told her I had a time problem
I would die for you but I don’t have ten minutes.
Numbers hung in the math book
like motel coathangers. The Lean
Cuisine was burning
like an ancient city: black at the edges,
bubbly earth tones in the center.
The latest thing they’re saying is lack
of time might be
a “woman’s problem.” She sat there
with her math book sobbing—
(turned out to be prime factoring: whole numbers
dangle in little nooses)
Hawking says if you back up far enough
it’s not even
an issue, time falls away into
'the curve' which is finite,
boundaryless. Appointment book,
(beep End beep went the microwave)
The hands fell off my watch in the night.
I spoke to the spirit
who took them, told her: Time is the funniest thing
they invented. Had wakened from a big
dream of love in a boat
No time to get the watch fixed so the blank face
lived for months in my dresser,
for hands, just quartz intentions, just the pinocchio
nose (before the lie)
left in the center; the watch
didn’t have twenty minutes; neither did I.
My girl was doing
her gym clothes by herself; (red leaked
toward black, then into the white
insignia) I was grading papers,
heard her call from the laundry room:
Hawking says there are two
types of it,
real and imaginary (imaginary time must be
like decaf), says it’s meaningless
to decide which is which
but I say: there was tomorrow-
when I started thinking about it; now
there’s less than a day. More
the thing that keeps being said. I thought
I could get more done as in:
fish stew from a book. As in: Versateller
archon, then push-push-push
the tired-tired around the track like a planet.
Legs, remember him?
Our love—when we stagger—lies down inside us. . .
there are little folds in time
(actually he calls them wormholes)
but I say:
there’s a universe beyond
where they’re hammering the brass cut-outs .. .
Push us out in the boat and leave time here—
(because: where in the plan was it written,
You’ll be too busy to close parentheses,
the snapdragon’s bunchy mouth needs water,
even the caterpillar will hurry past you?
Pulled the travel alarm
to my face: the black
behind the phosphorous argument kept the dark
from being ruined. Opened
the art book
—saw the languorous wrists of the lady
in Tissot’s “Summer Evening.” Relaxed. Turning
gently. The glove
(just slightly—but still:)
opened Hawking, he says, time gets smoothed
into a fourth dimension
but I say
space thought it up, as in: Let’s make
a baby space, and then
it missed. Were seconds born early, and why
didn’t things unhappen also, such as
the tree became Daphne. . .
At the beginning of harvest, we felt
the seven directions.
Time did not visit us. We slept
With one voice I called him, with one voice
I let him sleep, remembering
summer years ago,
I had come to visit him in the house of last straws
and when he returned
above the garden of pears, he said
our weeping caused the dew. . .
I have borrowed the little boat
and I say to him Come into the little boat,
you were happy there;
the evening reverses itself, we’ll push out
onto the pond,
or onto the reflection of the pond,
whichever one is eternal
Song of the Open Road
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)
You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.
You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me.
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.
O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.