What we want from art is whatever is missing from the lives we are already living and making.
-Jane Hirshfield

Sometimes I feel I'll never write another poem,
but then remember every tweet could be the first line
of a poem titled "The Unblinking I".

Other times, I just sigh & lament
I've got too much to do, but don't think
fewer commitments would make me happier.

I try to balance all types of effort
in my life and still hit snooze
six times every weekday.

Someone convinced me balance was the key
to a fulfilling life, and I've been
perched on a fulcrum ever since—

ankles aching, a world without music in one direction,
another suicide blueprint in another. There are other
pitfalls, but too many permutations to manage.

My biggest fear is slipping & piercing my taint
on the fine point of a perfect life.
One of the greatest gifts I've ever received

was from myself—the permission to look straight ahead
and accept the world as it exists in this moment.
It helps that our eyes constantly create a tiny space in which

the most logical world prevails—a mercy when
all you want is the fastest route home; a risk when motorcycles
& pedestrians are extrapolated away. I'm always concerned

I haven't learned the right lesson from my mistake. I suspect
my brain of shielding me from many difficult realities.
When I have nothing better to do—or too many things to do—

I tend to consume a lot of bread & beer.
I grind my teeth or tap a few bars of a beat with my incisors.
I touch my thumb to each finger a number of times

proportional to the itch between my shoulder blades,
then repeat with the other hand. It's how I keep the world
in order. It's a frame the world fits in.

What's missing is the rubric for all this effort.
When is it enough? Who will teach me? What's missing
is nothing, if I look straight ahead and I'm wearing my good shoes.

  • The epigraph comes from Jennifer Haupt's interview with Jane Hirshfield. Hirshfield continues by saying "Something is always missing, and so art-making is endless".
  • I became friends with Cameron Conaway one summer we worked together in Lancaster, PA. Years later, I read his book Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet and found refined ideas about balance that I had only begun to consider in my own life. Cameron is the "Someone" I refer to in line 10.
More poems in the Apologia series:
More ars poetica:
More poems about Failure:
More poems with a laugh:
More poems about Hope:
More poems about Obscure sorrows: