1.
This time tomorrow I’ll have arrived somewhere else. I wonder how empty the road will be, riding into the darkness. I wonder if I’ll feel afraid, but also excited. Like I want to throw my life out the window, at least the one I’ve known, and had. If only for a week.

2.
This time tomorrow I’ll be a stranger, perhaps even to myself. If anything, maybe that’s the kind of freedom that comes with a price I’m willing to pay—shed the skin, shed the self. If only for a while.

3.
I was going through my letters to M., about three years old. I wrote: “…perhaps that is why I am doing this. Perhaps that is why I am working to make room for some changes–because I do not want a small life. And it is quite small, where I am. It is quite small.”

Waiting For My Life
Linda Pastan

I waited for my life to start
for years, standing at bus stops
looking into the curved distance
thinking each bus was the wrong bus;
or lost in books where I would travel
without luggage from one page
to another; where the only breeze
was the rustle of pages turning,
and lives rose and set
in the violent colors of suns.

Sometimes my life coughed and coughed:
a stalled car about to catch,
and I would hold someone in my arms,
though it was always someone else I wanted.
Or I would board any bus, jostled
by thighs and elbows that knew
where they were going; collecting scraps
of talk, setting them down like bird song
in my notebook, where someday I would go
prospecting for my life.

This is from Carnival Evening by Linda Pastan, published by W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

I have thirty-three versions of Moon River. I don’t think it will ever be enough.
We’re after the same rainbow’s end—

Why Are Your Poems So Dark?
Linda Pastan

Isn’t the moon dark too,
most of the time?

And doesn’t the white page
seem unfinished

without the dark stain
of alphabets?

When God demanded light,
he didn’t banish darkness.

Instead he invented
ebony and crows

and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.

Or did you mean to ask
“Why are you sad so often?”

Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.

()

Dear R., it just hit me: I am alone. I know I sent you a letter last Sunday, breaking the silence. A singularly bad idea, I remember saying. But that’s done. I wonder if you’re happy. If that’s worth leaving everything.

Yours,
T.

The Obligation to Be Happy
Linda Pastan

It is more onerous
than the rites of beauty
or housework, harder than love.
But you expect it of me casually,
the way you expect the sun
to come up, not in spite of rain
or clouds but because of them.

And so I smile, as if my own fidelity
to sadness were a hidden vice—
that downward tug on my mouth,
my old suspicion that health
and love are brief irrelevancies,
no more than laughter in the warm dark
strangled at dawn.

Happiness. I try to hoist it
on my narrow shoulders again—
a knapsack heavy with gold coins.
I stumble around the house,
bump into things.
Only Midas himself
would understand.

This is from Carnival Evening by Linda Pastan, published by W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Goodbye, August.

Because
Linda Pastan

Because the night you asked me,
the small scar of the quarter moon
had healed—the moon was whole again;
because life seemed so short;
because life stretched before me
like the darkened halls of nightmare;
because I knew exactly what I wanted;
because I knew exactly nothing;
because I shed my childhood with my clothes—
they both had years of wear left in them;
because your eyes were darker than my father’s;
because my father said I could do better;
because I wanted badly to say no;
because Stanley Kowalski shouted “Stella…;”
because you were a door I could slam shut;
because endings are written before beginnings;
because I knew that after twenty years
you’d bring the plants inside for winter
and make a jungle we’d sleep in naked;
because I had free will;
because everything is ordained;
I said yes.

This is from Carnival Evening by Linda Pastan, published by W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

I wish you’re here now. Tonight. Just so we can talk, even just a little. Just so I can kiss you, even just a little.

I Am Learning To Abandon the World
Linda Pastan

I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

A New Poet
Linda Pastan

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don’t see

its name in the flower books, and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day – the odor of truth
and of lying.

And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only

in your dreams there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

This is from Carnival Evening by Linda Pastan, published by W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Crazy night out. So that I don’t think of you.

Love Poem
Linda Pastan

I want to write you
a love poem as headlong
as our creek
after thaw
when we stand
on its dangerous
banks and watch it carry
with it every twig
every dry leaf and branch
in its path
every scruple
when we see it
so swollen
with runoff
that even as we watch
we must grab
each other
and step back
we must grab each
other or
get our shoes
soaked we must
grab each other