My laptop is once again dead, and the borrowed antique with which I write this permits no processing of clippings. What better time then for some inspirational poetry? This is by one of my favorite writers, Thomas Disch. He kind of let me down a couple of years back by blowing his brains out on July 4th. But I don’t feel that this invalidates the verse.
In a better universe than this, this poem would occupy the place that Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata” does here: framed copies would hang in dentist office waiting rooms, psych wards, church-basement youth centers and other places of healing and uplift.
1. There is a man weeping as he sits by a roulette table, in Atlantic City; he has lost everything, he is ruined.
2. Another weeps as, yet again, the mailman drives by without stopping.
3. In a suburb outside Middletown tears of despair moisten a long-unlaundered pillowcase at 3 A.M.
4. These men are fortune’s fools who baselessly believed luck would favor them always because they had been lucky once.
5. They shall turn to their comforters and find no comfort. Their dinners are take-out, their wives live in distant cities.
6. I say to them: stop bellyaching. Mow your lawns. Rejoice in the music of Beethoven, and brush your teeth.
7. Behold! A procession of women approaches. They are old but their faces are bright with makeup. They do not complain of arthritis or their children’s neglect.
8. Here is a widow who paints landscapes and clowns. How chipper she is, how full of wisdom.
9. Here is her sister Judith. Four hours everyday she speaks with strangers on the phone about their asphalt driveways, and never repines.
10. This woman’s house is spotless. She breakfasts on her own preserves. Her hands are always busy.
11. How long are the days in July, how much there is still to be done.
12. Do not grieve, therefore, for resorts that stand empty in the Catskills, where once were multitudes; nor for the rivers where no bass strikes; nor yet for the small town’s only five-and-dime, burned to the ground.
13. What though there is not money for a wider drive: do not, each spring, the irises return?
14. The deer and the crow delight beneath the apple tree; the wise man sits by his TV and drowses; and the mouse is warm in the crawlspace.
15. Why, therefore, sorrow? A millennium draws to an end, but shall not another replace it?
16. Look on this book, a best-seller long ago, and just today purchased for two dollars at the Methodists’ Book Bazaar.
17. There is no death but only continuance; if not for those who have passed away, at least for all the rest of us.
18. The nonagenarian in the nursing home has heard the Nightly News, but her sleep is undisturbed.
19. The downsized trucker drinks his fill, and the chronically depressed waitress grows fat.
20. Above them all are the stars, beyond summary or comprehension; beyond all sorrow equally; unthinkable their distance from us.
21. And yet, how wonderful to think, it is those stars, so far away, that are the source of all our luck.
22. Let the wise heed these counsels; and let the ignorant live in their ignorance still. Selah.
Thomas M. Disch, The Word of God