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Posts Tagged ‘failure’

 

 

 

That’s what cars are for,

said the master whistler, when I told him

I could not whistle.

I auditioned for him

with my one-note draft,

and he said, Yeah, I

can work with that,

which I took to mean

that I could work with that.

Eventually, he said,

you’ll arrive at a tone.

And so I whistled

four hours as I drove north,

starting with Moon River,

Skylark, and Paris in Springtime,

then, demoralized

by lack of progress,

turned on the eighties station

and created a breeze

to accompany INXS, Howard Jones,

Prince and Tone Loc.

The difference between

what I heard in my head

and what came from my lips—

so much beauty

missing. And just

before arriving at my own

front door, I had somehow

begun a gusty rendition

of When the Saints Go Marching In,

and thought to myself,

yeah, I think I might

be getting it, but five

verses later laughed

at my longing for success.

When I opened the door

of the car, I felt the wind

meet my face. I let it

carry the almost notes

and decided tomorrow

I’d try some Moondance

and Fever before Hot Cross Buns,

knowing how it takes

a lot of wind

before one’s ship comes in.

 

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building a cup tower,

then laughing as they all come down,

inviting myself

to imagine the word Dixie

on all these towers I’ve built

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After hoping and trying

and failing and hoping

and trying and failing

and hoping and trying

and failing the mind

perhaps will finally say

I don’t know what comes next

and, startled by the sweet

clarity of this, the body

raises both arms, though

the mind didn’t tell it to—

yes, the arms rise weightless

and open, as if there is nothing

they aren’t ready to embrace,

as if the world as it is

might come rushing in.

 

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This is the path of failure. We see that our definition of success is what is not working. What is working is deep, unseen. —Joi Sharp

 

 

Even a small discontent is enough to shut us down,

convince us that the world is cold and indifferent.

Everywhere there’s evidence of this: The slush

 

that falls on your car seat when you open the car door.

The carrion eaters with their great black wings

that linger beside the road. You pray for sun,

 

and it gets darker. Someone asks

you a question, and you see your whole life

fold into one small envelope of failure.

 

Then one day you hit against the same

impassable wall you always hit and this time you fall

to your knees, not because you are weak,

 

but because at last you are ready to be opened.

Oh sweet failure, how it leads us.

Any unhappy ending is only an invitation

 

to crawl into the blank pages

of the next unwritten chapter.

It was never success that transformed us—

 

always the breaking. Not the breaking itself,

but the mystery inside pushing through us

like bindweed through pavement

 

making cracks in everything

we think we know so that the world

can come streaming in.

 

 

 

 

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when all the balls drop

pick them up with a smile

and let the last thing

they see be the sparkle in your eye

and your hands no longer grasping

 

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Malfunction

 

 

 

It didn’t snap,

the trap, when the vole

ran across it—I watched

from my kitchen window

as the fat gray body

emerged from the grass

and traipsed across the waiting trap

before it looped through the pansies

and returned to the lawn.

And I, who set the trap

with Adam’s Smooth Peanut Butter,

laughed with strange delight

in my failure to kill

that damn little kale eating vole.

What is it in us that learns to relax?

The tips of lawn grass trembled

as the vole ran its path back to the field,

oblivious to my scheming.

It knew only that the mint overtaking

the pansies was delicious,

so green, so fresh.

 

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Votre âme est un paysage choisi / Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques / Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi / Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

            —Paul Verlaine, “Claire de Lune”

 

 

I hate the way my fingers stumble

through the prelude—in my ear,

it is beautiful, the phrases open

and flowing, and I hum sincerely, as if

with song I could make my hands

more nimble. There are fields,

golden, inside the arpeggios,

and they part as if the wind has blown

a place for a path, and then

a thousand thousand birds

take flight just before night—

or at least that is what I

want to hear. But I am clumsy,

an oxen trampling in the field

who trips in every irrigation ditch.

 

I have read that by the time

the suite was published, Debussy

hated the sound of it, deplored

his earlier style. I try to imagine him

here in the living room, his thin moustache,

his thick black bangs, oh how

he would cringe, revile my lack

of sensitivity. And how I would hate

to disappoint him. Both of us

miserable, both of us abhorring

what we hear—I would stop playing,

I would, and walk over to him

as he scoffed, and I would say,

 

Look, look Claude,

how the moon is full, so large there

on the horizon. And we’d step

out onto the porch.

There would be no birds,

no wind to part the field,

and he would slip his hand

toward the moon, and say,

There, there, that is what I was trying to say.

And I would let my empty hands

play.

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