Kelly Cherry 

 

Aspirations

Most of us want to think of ourselves as kind.
At least within limits, limits being ticks and fruit flies,
employers who pay less than fifteen dollars an hour,
the racist, the ignorant president,
the friend who moved to California
and promptly forgot you. Failed to include your work
in his well-known anthology. Now you get
it, that he was never going to include you.
Still, we dislike ourselves for the grievances                                   
that ooze from our mouths when we meant to be
civilized and forgiving. He was too busy,
you tell yourself, I tell myself, plenty
of people tell themselves: had more on his hands than anyone
could handle. So cut him some slack. Just don’t imagine
he’s ever going to get in touch with you
again.

Now, the question is how to set
such pains aside and remember that
precisely because you have felt pain you must
be kinder than ever. Believe it or not, the world
without kindness is the death of hope. Someone
reaches out for help, and if you turn away
you find yourself on the bottom of the ocean,
drowning or drowned, no longer able to breathe.
We must breathe. We owe that to one another.
Underwater, life turns dark and darker,
pressure may cause us to explode just like
a bomb on the streets of sad, bombarded Aleppo.
We are fallible and fragile, creatures
in need of air, warmth, solid ground, and company.
There were five birds on the same block of suet                  
at the feeder this morning. If they can get along,
why can’t we? Of course, life is rarely simple.
There are unnamed roads, sinkholes, washed-out bridges,
out-of-date directional gadgets, and motels
in which you hope never to end up.
And yet the day is mild and energizing
and you find yourself singing in spite of yourself,
leaves like a tent over your head, a canopy
like the four-poster bed you look forward to sleeping in
with your spouse when you arrive home at end of day,
glad to be alive, glad to be where
you are now.

 

 

 

Kelly Cherry has published 25 full-length books, 10 chapbooks, and 2 translations of classical drama. Forthcoming this year are another book of poems, another chapbook, and another book of fiction. She holds two chairs as an emerita professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.