Lauren Bacall in Harper’s Bazaar, 1943
This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?
Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.
And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.)
Because you were born at a good time.
Because you were able to listen when people spoke to you.
Because you stopped when you should have started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.
Eleanor Lerman, from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds
With thanks to thesensualstarfish.
The first day it feels like fall
I want to tell my secrets
recklessly until there is nothing
you don’t know that would make
your heart change years from now.
How foolish we are to believe
we might outlive this distance.
I don’t know names for things
in the prairie, where the expanse
of light and the hissing of tall stalks
make me move slowly,
like in another country before
I must share it with anyone.
In what do you believe?
In September’s slight motion
of particulars, in the weight of birds,
in lust, propulsion, maps
that lie. You should not have loved
me. Now: goldenrod, prairie-clover,
the ovate-leafed bluebell with its open
throat saying how did you expect
to feel? Colonies of prairie-smoke
and pods turning golden and papery,
the grassy plains iterating patience,
and things I cannot name.
Begin with apples reddening.
Begin with a woman touching
the cities in your feet. Hartford,
Anchorage, the Bronx. Did you ever
see yourself as more
than yourself? I walk into a part
of afternoon that deepens
inventing an endpoint
for sadness. Everyone is gone.
On the subject of deception,
where do you stand? There’s a chill
in the air and the flowers know,
the goddamned flowers, their loosed
color. Sometimes we are cruel
and we mean it. We author the house
with its threadbare linens, the false
miniatures of people saying look at me.
Will the landscape forgive you?
Is it yours to describe? What
is the sound inside your mouth?
I’m surrounded by grasslands
in every direction. The sound
is a clamoring, because desire
is never singular and we want it
this way. We want it easy.
I have already let go
of summer. Here, the wind—
dispersal of seeds and story. Love,
there are things I cannot name.
Heading east at sunrise on the 26 east of Mt. Hood
There are fierce powers at work in the world, boys. Good, evil, poor luck, best luck. As men, we’ve got to take advantage where we can.
One of the last images of Philip Seymour Hoffman, a tintype taken at the Sundance Film Festival where he made his last public appearance.