Category Archives: Expectancy

Frederick Buechner

from Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
by Frederick Buechner

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

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Linda Pastan

To a Daughter Leaving Home
by Linda Pastan

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

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David Ignatow

For My Daughter
by David Ignatow

When I die choose a star
and name it after me
that you may know
I have not abandoned
or forgotten you.
You were such a star to me,
following you through birth
and childhood, my hand
in your hand.

When I die
choose a star and name it
after me so that I may shine
down on you, until you join
me in darkness and silence

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Linda Pastan

I Am Learning To Abandon the World
by Linda Pastan

I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.

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Etheridge Knight

The Idea of Ancestry
by Etheridge Knight

Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st & 2nd), nieces, and nephews. They stare
across the space at me sprawling on my bunk. I know
their dark eyes, they know mine. I know their style,
they know mine. I am all of them, they are all of me;
they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.

I have at one time or another been in love with my mother,
1 grandmother, 2 sisters, 2 aunts (1 went to the asylum),
and 5 cousins. I am now in love with a 7-yr-old niece
(she sends me letters written in large block print, and
her picture is the only one that smiles at me).

I have the same name as 1 grandfather, 3 cousins, 3 nephews,
and 1 uncle. The uncle disappeared when he was 15, just took
off and caught a freight (they say). He’s discussed each year
when the family has a reunion, he causes uneasiness in
the clan, he is an empty space. My father’s mother, who is 93
and who keeps the Family Bible with everybody’s birth dates
(and death dates) in it, always mentions him. There is no
place in her Bible for “whereabouts unknown.”

Each fall the graves of my grandfathers call me, the brown
hills and red gullies of mississippi send out their electric
messages, galvanizing my genes. Last yr / like a salmon quitting
the cold ocean-leaping and bucking up his birthstream / I
hitchhiked my way from LA with 16 caps in my packet and a
monkey on my back. And I almost kicked it with the kinfolks.
I walked barefooted in my grandmother’s backyard / I smelled the old
land and the woods / I sipped cornwhiskey from fruit jars with the men /
I flirted with the women / I had a ball till the caps ran out
and my habit came down. That night I looked at my grandmother
and split / my guts were screaming for junk / but I was almost
contented / I had almost caught up with me.
(The next day in Memphis I cracked a croaker’s crib for a fix.)

This yr there is a gray stone wall damming my stream, and when
the falling leaves stir my genes, I pace my cell or flop on my bunk
and stare at 47 black faces across the space. I am all of them,
they are all of me, I am me, they are thee, and I have no children
to float in the space between.

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Filed under Expectancy, Historiography, Poems

David Ignatow

The Bagel
by David Ignatow

I stopped to pick up the bagel
rolling away in the wind,
annoyed with myself
for having dropped it
as if it were a portent.
Faster and faster it rolled,
with me running after it
bent low, gritting my teeth,
and I found myself doubled over
and rolling down the street
head over heels, one complete somersault
after another like a bagel
and strangely happy with myself.

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Filed under Ephemeron, Expectancy, Poems, Uncategorized

Edward Field

by Edward Field

Only the feathers floating around the hat
Showed that anything more spectacular had occurred
Than the usual drowning. The police preferred to ignore
The confusing aspects of the case,
And the witnesses ran off to a gang war.
So the report filed and forgotten in the archives read simply
“Drowned,” but it was wrong: Icarus
Had swum away, coming at last to the city
Where he rented a house and tended the garden.

“That nice Mr. Hicks” the neighbors called,
Never dreaming that the gray, respectable suit
Concealed arms that had controlled huge wings
Nor that those sad, defeated eyes had once
Compelled the sun. And had he told them
They would have answered with a shocked,
uncomprehending stare.
No, he could not disturb their neat front yards;
Yet all his books insisted that this was a horrible mistake:
What was he doing aging in a suburb?
Can the genius of the hero fall
To the middling stature of the merely talented?

And nightly Icarus probes his wound
And daily in his workshop, curtains carefully drawn,
Constructs small wings and tries to fly
To the lighting fixture on the ceiling:
Fails every time and hates himself for trying.
He had thought himself a hero, had acted heroically,
And dreamt of his fall, the tragic fall of the hero;
But now rides commuter trains,

Serves on various committees,
And wishes he had drowned.

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Major Jackson

Leave It All Up to Me
by Major Jackson

All we want is to succumb to a single kiss
that will contain us like a marathon
with no finish line, and if so, that we land
like newspapers before sunrise, halcyon
mornings arrived like blue martinis. I am
learning the steps to a foreign song: her mind
was torpedo, and her body was storm,
a kind of Wow. All we want is a metropolis
of Sundays, an empire of hand-holding
and park benches? She says, “Leave it all up to me.”

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Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

from Aphorisms, Notebook J (1789-1793)
by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

We cannot remember too often that when we observe nature, and especially the ordering of nature, it is always ourselves alone we are observing.

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Chad Gifford.

Don’t worry if you like it.  Decide whether it is good.

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William Butler Yeats

The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner (1893)
by William Butler Yeats

Although I shelter from the rain
Under a broken tree
My chair was nearest to the fire
In every company
That talked of love or politics,
Ere Time transfigured me.

Though lads are making pikes again
For some conspiracy,
And crazy rascals rage their fill
At human tyranny,
My contemplations are of Time
That has transfigured me.

There’s not a woman turns her face
Upon a broken tree,
And yet the beauties that I loved
Are in my memory;
I spit into the face of Time
That has transfigured me.

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Zeitgeist as parent

Editorial: My six-year old daughter saw two turtles mating at a science museum and mentioned offhandedly that they were making baby turtles.  We have not talked with her all that much about procreation but the Zeitgeist does have a way of seeping everywhere—even into the minds of Kindergarteners.  My friend who was standing next to my daughter agreed that the turtles were probably making baby turtles and that was that.  Then just the other day my daughter and I were waiting on the curb at a crowded NYC bus stop when a double-long city bus pulled up with this exact Sundance advertisement plastered along its side.  If you have been in this spot before then you know what it feels like to have a huge, high-gloss advertisement like this one take over your entire field of vision.  As we shuffled towards the door of the bus and passed the shirtless gentleman with the high-tops and blindfold (sic) my daughter stopped dead in her tracks, gazing at the larger-than-life image.  When we finally boarded the bus a focused conversation began about who tends to like whom in this world.  My daughter reported that in her Kindergarten class “like” between her classmates went in four directions: Girls who like Girls (common); Boys who like Boys (also common); Girls who like Boys (somewhat common); Boys who like Girls (not common at all).  She then fell silent for a moment before making this point about the advertisement: Papa, the boys who like boys in that bed are going to need help from the girls to make babies.  

Thanks, Zeitgeist, for taking care of this one.  Persistence seems to be your best technique. 

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Filed under Editorial, Expectancy, Images, Subjectivity

Robert Frost

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

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John Ruskin

from The Seven Lamps of Architecture
by John Ruskin

It might be at first thought that the whole kingdom of imagination was one of deception also. Not so: the action of the imagination is a voluntary summoning of the conceptions of things absent or impossible; and the pleasure and nobility of the imagination partly consist in its knowledge and contemplation of them as such, i.e. in the knowledge of their actual absence or impossibility at the moment of their apparent presence or reality…. It is necessary to our rank as spiritual creatures, that we should be able to invent and to behold what is not; and to our rank as moral creatures, that we should know and confess at the same time that it is not.

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Yiddish Proverb

To a worm in a horseradish, the whole world is a horseradish.

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David Foster Wallace

To be a mass tourist, for me, is to becmoe a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience, It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.
From “Consider the Lobster” in Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, Back Bay Books, New York, 2006.

Editorial: I read this essay whilst traveling in Venice during the New Year. Enough said.

in Venice

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Alex España

Today I need to do three things. Fill out my planner. Do what my planner says. Find my planner.

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Yiddish Proverb

Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht.
Man plans, God laughs.

Editorial: Think of all the ludicrous demands made by the fickle gods of ancient mythology: sacrifice this virgin, build a boat, fetch me that animal, if you do this you live and if you don’t you die. On and on. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how some events happen in ways that are surprising and even poetic, as if the gods are indeed crazy and indeed have a wicked sense of humor. The impatient man just misses the bus. The composer loses his hearing. The marathoner dies of heart disease. But how is it that the alternative to the gods giving you exactly what you cannot handle is equally vexing: when the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers. This means the gods have us suffering coming and going– when they do and do not grant our wishes. The fact that both scenarios are coincidences means little to people who tend to fault or credit the divine for everything that occurs in patterns. Either way I certainly enjoy the proverbs and clichés that spring up around their explanation, especially Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht!

More here… ( Dec. 6, 2010)

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Anton Chekhov

If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.
In 1889, Ilia Gurliand noted these words from a conversation with Chekhov (see Donald Rayfield, Anton Chekhov: A Life, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997, p.203). Chekhov repeated this point a number of times.

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Sherman Alexie

by Sherman Alexie

Here’s a fact: Some people want to live more
Than others do. Some can withstand any horror

While others will easily surrender
To thirst, hunger, and extremes of weather.

In Utah, one man carried another
Man on his back like a conjoined brother

And crossed twenty-five miles of desert
To safety. Can you imagine the hurt?

Do you think you could be that good and strong?
Yes, yes, you think, but you’re probably wrong.

Appears in the New Yorker, June 8, 2009

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