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Note to Self

By Thomas R. Smith on November 9, 2016 2:50 PM

Well, we die whether we stay together or fall apart.

Finally the world goes on its way without us.

The most scourge-like name alive today will one day

be spoken seldom if at all. To what purpose

this sighing and raging? To what purpose this pain?

The main thing is to be a part of one’s time,

no matter which side seems to be winning. It’s OK

to be a noble failure, a fool in the eyes of the world,

to die in the relentless faith of a Pete Seeger

or Rachel Carson. The big truck taking up so much

space will one day come to the end of its road.

Insults will be forgotten. Offended decency

will be forgotten. In a hundred years, new

people and new problems. And we can be

sure there will be some glory in being alive

in just their moment, as there is in ours.

Even as I write and as you read, the termites

of ruin are chewing day and night at the under-

side of the hypocrite’s mask that shines with

such shameless intensity in the national

spotlight. The time to speak is always now.

Say your truth if only for those who may be

listening from the galleries of dead and unborn,

if not the childish public locked in their

death tango with destruction. Reserve for yourself

days of uninterrupted silence in which to hear

those things that have settled in your heart most deeply

sing their faithfulness beneath time’s altering sky.

Note: This poem originally appeared on the New Verse News web site on October 8, 2016, a month before our disastrous election. At rare moments a poem one has written can return to comfort, as though a past self speaking to the present. I feel this to be the case with “Note to Self” on this very dark morning of November 9, 2016. Courage and perseverance, friends, for the difficult road ahead. May we, as Thomas McGrath wrote in his poem “Epitaph,” “journey together joyfully, / Living on catastrophe, eating the pure light.”)

Thomas R. Smith is a poet, essayist, editor, and teacher, whose work has appeared in hundreds of publications in the U.S., Canada, and abroad.  He is author of six books of poems, most recently Waking Before Dawn (2007) and The Foot of the Rainbow (2010).  He has edited three books on Robert Bly, most recently Airmail:  The Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Tranströmer (2013).

 He has had hundreds of poems published on three continents.  In the United States, his poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.  His poems were included in Editor’s Choice II (The Spirit That Moves Us Press), a selection of the best of the American small press, and in The Best American Poetry 1999 (Scribner).  His work has reached wide national audiences on Garrison Keillor’s public radio show Writer’s Almanac and former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s syndicated newspaper column, American Life in Poetry.

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