Ron Padgett: How to be perfect

How to Be Perfect

                                                  Everything is perfect, dear friend.
—KEROUAC

Get some sleep.
Don’t give advice.
Take care of your teeth and gums.
Don’t be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don’t be afraid, for
instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone
you love will suddenly drop dead.
Eat an orange every morning.
Be friendly. It will help make you happy.
Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes
four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.
Hope for everything. Expect nothing.
Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression
of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.
Make eye contact with a tree.
Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of
them.
Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.
Do not speak quickly.
Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.
Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball
collection.
Be loyal.
Wear comfortable shoes.
Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance
and variety.
Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you
become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at
them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!
Live with an animal.
Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.
If you need help, ask for it.
Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.
If someone murders your child, get a shotgun and blow his head off.
Plan your day so you never have to rush.
Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you
have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.
Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.
Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it is far
more defective than you imagined.
When you borrow something, return it in an even better condition.
As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or metal
ones.
Look at that bird over there.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Calm down.
Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have
expressed a desire to kill you.
Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.
Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it.
What is out (in) there?
Sing, every once in a while.
Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and lengthy
excuse.
Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.
Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.
Walk upstairs.
Do not practice cannibalism.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do
anything to make it impossible.
Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.
Keep your windows clean.
Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.
Don’t use the word extirpate too often.
Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go
to another one.
If you feel tired, rest.
Grow something.
Do not wander through train stations muttering, “We’re all going to
die!”
Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.
Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the
pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of a
cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.
Do not exclaim, “Isn’t technology wonderful!”
Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.
Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even
older. Which is depressing.
Do one thing at a time.
If you burn your finger, put it in cold water immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty
minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of coldness and
gravity.
Learn how to whistle at earsplitting volume.
Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer you
should be.
Enjoy sex, but don’t become obsessed with it. Except for brief periods
in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.
Contemplate everything’s opposite.
If you’re struck with the fear that you’ve swum out too far in the
ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.
Keep your childish self alive.
Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with a
tornado on it.
Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then appreciate
how much better you feel. Don’t be embarrassed about feeling better.
Do not inhale smoke.
Take a deep breath.
Do not smart off to a policeman.
Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the
street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped
in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.
Be good.
Walk down different streets.
Backwards.
Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice
that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.
Stay out of jail.
In later life, become a mystic.
Use Colgate toothpaste in the new Tartar Control formula.
Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When you feel it is
time to leave, do so.
Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.
Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.
Read and reread great books.
Dig a hole with a shovel.
In winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.
Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and a
27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.
Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink,
say, “Water, please.”
Ask “Where is the loo?” but not “Where can I urinate?”
Be kind to physical objects.
Beginning at age forty, get a complete “physical” every few years
from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.
Don’t read the newspaper more than once a year.
Learn how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “chopsticks”
in Mandarin.
Belch and fart, but quietly.
Be especially cordial to foreigners.
See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the
characters. Or all of them.
Take out the trash.
Love life.
Use exact change.
When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.
Ron Padgett, “How to Be Perfect” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2013 by Ron Padgett. 

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photo Jen Cobden

Mary Oliver – Do you have time?

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Do you have time?
 
 
Oh do you have time

 

to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning

in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:

‘You must change your life.’

~ Mary Oliver
photograph Rose Cook

ANTIDOTES TO FEAR OF DEATH  by Rebecca Elson

ANTIDOTES TO FEAR OF DEATH
by Rebecca Elson

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

Why I am not a Painter

Why I Am Not a Painter

by Frank O’ Hara

I am not a painter, I am a poet.

Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

 

photo Rose Cook

 

 

Jane Hirschfield

 

Standing Deer

As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.
As the thoughts of a person
in age sometimes grow sparer,
like a great cleanness come into a room,
the soul may grow sparer;
one sparrow song carves it completely.
And still the room is full,
and still the heart.
Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.
Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.
Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.
A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.
~ Jane Hirschfield
from The Lives of the Heart

Photograph Rose Cook

Out of my Deeper Heart – Kahlil Gibran


Out of my deeper heart

Out of my deeper heart a bird rose and flew skyward.

Higher and higher did it rise, yet larger and larger did it grow.
At first it was but like a swallow, then a lark, then an eagle,
 then as vast as a spring cloud, and then it filled the starry heavens.
Out of my heart a bird flew skyward.

And it waxed larger as it flew.

 Yet it left not my heart.
 
 
~ Kahlil Gibran
photograph Rose Cook

‘Fall’ a poem for the autumn equinox

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Fall by Edward Hirsch 

 

Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer’s
Sprawling past and winter’s hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.

 

 

Photograph Rose Cook


One Breath by Lisa Kristine

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One Breath       Lisa Kristine

 

When my mother was dying

We made a agreement that when she passed

I would have to find her in new ways

 

She said,

 

You can find me in the wind

Or in the scent of a rose..

 

You will find me in the decisions you make…

 

Help each other

 

We are all children of the Gods

And we all share one language

And we all share one breath.

 

 

photograph Rose Cook

In Tall Grass- Carl Sandburg

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In Tall Grass – Carl Sandburg

 

photo Rose Cook

Announcing – ‘Sightings’ a new book of poems from Rose Cook

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a new, slim volume of poems: Sightings from Rose Cook

published by Grey Hen Press    £4 plus p&p    email info@greyhenpress.com

 

What some have said about the book:

Here are poems “bright as Lord Krishna’s hair’ that take great joy and delight in the wild-life of sea and shore. In an age of cynicism and depression over climate change these poems are a pure celebration of nature; to quote a line from her poem about building a stone wall, they are like “the heartings” that brim with “tumble and lustre”. A truly uplifting collection.

 Gill McEvoy (Rise pub Cinnamon Press)

 

There are poems here delightfully willing to see through the eyes of the creatures involved – whales, dogs, seals, fish, birds – while the human element is aware of itself as the inevitable record of vision.

And there are poems here which speak directly to the hidden in all of us; losses which remain on the inside brought to sight/light by Cook`s tender language and deft crafting.  

With the ‘white sheets’ on the washing line, Cook surrenders to sight, while that ‘single red shirt’ acts as a warning: Look out. And up, and everywhere, all the time, because it`s a good thing. Because it helps.

Sandra Tappenden (Speed pub Salt Modern Poets)