Living life fully regardless of circumstances. Impact of poetry on lives. “The Lesson of the Moth” poem by Don Marquis (July 2008)

Susan's Thursday morning note July 24, 2008 
The Lesson of the Moth poem by Don Marquis
    Life life fully regardless of circumstances.
    Impact of poetry on lives.

Good morning!  I can’t resist continuing with last week’s book, Good Poems, selected by Garrison Keillor.  There were several poems that I wanted to type for all of you, but one has stayed in my head this week.  I was rereading his forward this week and got more out just his introduction to poetry than I have any book lately.  Garrison Keillor is funny, able to get us to laugh about our realities.  But he has a serious side that also penetrates a core in me…listen to this sentence:

How often in the past week did anyone offer you something from the heart?  It's there in poetry.  Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn't matter - poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart...what matters about poetry to me now is directness and clarity and truthfulness...Poetry is made of the grandeur that is available to a man with no fortune but with somewhere to walk to and ears to hear and a mind to transport him.  He may be defeated in love and finance and yet the night belongs to him, he feels entrusted with the stunning sky, the guardian of the houses on the street and all the people in them. So are poets, the angels and shepherds of the sleeping world.

the lesson of the moth
by Don Marquis

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter

it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

I don’t know why therapists would think about me since I enjoyed that poem!  I saw the movie The Bucket List right before that poem.  On living fully while we’re living…what dreams did we have before routine and responsibilities set in?  Is it possible to list those on paper and try to go for some of the dreams we have had?  Where we say, “I’d love to do that someday.” I do know that I’ve read we must put these little and big desires on paper.  For in seeing them in print we validate the desire and then can set specific goals to accomplish the dreams.  Travel?  Write?  Sing?  Take music lessons?  Learn to swim as an adult?  Begin a garden.  Visit the northernmost town in Alaska?  Visit every major league baseball field?  Sit on the white sands of Crete with the blue Mediterranean waters below.  See those soldiers that were uncovered by a farmer in China.  Simple.  Difficult.  All should be listed.  For then when we do die we will see check marks, and what we were not able to check…who knows?  Still write your list, even what you know you’ll never be able to do because of your circumstances.  Maybe our children or someone that loves us can finish our list for us, as they glance up into the stars and smile at us.

If you think I read books over your head, think again.  I am as novice as any of you.  I just try.  That is what is on my Bucket List.  To try to read a little bit of something that I know nothing of instead of using the phone or turning on the computer.  What would my little moth do?  Just sit safely, or get up and take a risk?  Make your list.  Write the list in the back of one of your favorite books on your shelf, so when you think of anything new you just grab the book off of your shelf.  Also, when you see the book on your shelf during the day you’ll know that list is in the back and you will find that you aren’t living a dull, routine life…you are also pursuing your dreams.  Just by writing them down you begin the pursuit.  Thanks for letting me be in your Thursday!  Wherever you are in your personal song – don’t let any minor section get you to quit.  Look up to the hills in your prayers, get on your knees.  God is there.  Your minor key will eventually change into a beautiful part of your song.  Have a great weekend – it’s fair time!!!  I can’t believe that Camden’s first words this morning were, “It’s fair day!” – he is living.  Determined to make his day count.  It’s now up to me as his mom to keep his spirit singing.  Susan

Latin for this week: 
Age quod agis - Do what you do well.

Works Cited:
Keillor, Garrison. Good Poems: Selected & Introduced by Garrison Keillor. Penguin Putnam. 2002.
Keillor, Garrison. Good Poems for Hard Times: Selected & Introduced by Garrison Keillor. Penguin Putnam. 2005.