I don’t notice the mountains anymore
though they’re right in front of me-
driving to work straight facing a miracle of nature.
I hear sounds but I don’t care
where they’re coming from,
I have time off but I don’t feel
There are Christmas flowers, scarlet and white,
all dead in the window, still
and I wonder when it happened
that I stopped having time
To the kitchen to make spaghetti,
to the cupboard to find the salt shaker,
to the bedroom to find that one cup
for the milk
for those girl scout cookies
you bought in October.
But you started gathering laundry
as soon as you walked in the room
and the quarters remind you
the credit card payment’s due.
You wonder what happened to poetry.
Why can’t you find that cup?
You taste the sauce
with a mouthful of dry cookie
and tears well.
What was it that ended your reign-
you’re so beautiful
and feel so crazed-
what blew in and took away
your neat control?
You walk down the laundry
in a baby buggy
while the stove is on
and you’re thinking of how
you could’ve signed the papers
when you were dead, when you
never wanted the divorce
But you don’t sit still
while the dryer runs,
you know enough to keep busy,
to make up for lost time,
and you’re gonna get back
to where you lost it,
you’re gonna be fine.
Don’t ask me if they’re any good,
the words you pressed into my hand-
I can’t give you permission.
I can tell you if your package is presentable,
and in what manner it was received-
but will you still give lopsided gifts
with crooked bows
if I tell you they are?
A magazine can tell you if you’re lucrative,
and it might sing like heaven to hear it
or sting like hell-
but will you still work for free if they tell you
you’re not worth a cent?
Have you not earned the right to speak
by being alive and having something to say?
And if I tell you to write because I think you should
would you write what I wanted to hear?
You must give yourself permission
because the rest of the universe already has-
What flower hasn’t died for you to stand there wavering,
waiting for permission to timidly assert
that in some worlds it was red
and some worlds grey?
What English teacher has not at his core
some desire to give more than paper permission,
to raise up more than nervous doormats
vying for praise?
What injustice hasn’t gone on long enough
before you finally stand up
and call it what it is?
No one gives us permission for that-
you must permit yourself to be.
Only then will you have the courage
to keep on speaking
when the world won’t hear.
It’s a lot of fun to dream
and push yourself
and think you’re great,
especially if you are.
But don’t get ahead of yourself, chief.
Because if you don’t get
the sloppy, bridge-jumping panics
at least a little every time you try,
then you’re aiming for tree trunks
Don’t be that guy.
And if you’re chuggin’ along fine
when the meltdown hits,
well, don’t let it hit you
‘Cause maybe you aren’t
far enough down the road
but at least you got
somewhere to go.
And maybe you’re up there
in the winner’s circle
sweatin’ ’cause you think
you don’t belong-
but don’t worry about them,
don’t sweat people
’cause they all get the panics,