The Instructions

Above: I read the poem aloud.

The Instructions

Before age four

every child in my nation

is told clearly

the meaning of life.

You see,

the long-gone who birthed us

our master physiques (with our tool-making thumbs,

and our bipedal feet,)

secured also the key

that is stitched

in our mouths

before we even start

eating or grow in

our teeth.

Like little hands clumsy

little minds cannot grasp

the questions they’ll

face when they’re old:

What

am I

to do

here

with my life?

and

How

go about it?

and

Why?

What a shame,

by the time

we reach these

confusions, we forget

they’re long-ago

given solutions.

They are common strings

threading through

every upbringing, on which

our ancestors strum

the songs of our singing:

Row

Row

Row your boat gently

down the stream.

These are the instructions.

Row your boat gently.

Paddle your vessel

(your self)

gently

through the flow.

And don’t go upstream!

(That’s not worth it.)

Down the stream, follow

the stream, follow

the natural current,

the flow of

Life: the energy grooving

gently

inside

and outside all things

and their moving.

And how?

Listen now.

Merrily.

Merrily,

merrily,

merrily,

merrily!

These are the instructions

for how to live--

--and next,

the reason why:

In five little words

life’s biggest secret:

(Because)

Life is but a dream.

Like the past folded

up inside the present,

what meaning has been

packed like a lock

pick kit stitched

inside the secret lining of

baby’s first melody?

Oh our sneaky,

stealthy grandmothers!

Life is but a dream.

Singing it now,

this living,

dreaming,

feeling,

rowing, singing self

wonders,

--Whether when

wrestling my last

rapid or

at last clefting

the wide open--

(when it’s over)

Bed of what

will I awake in?

Will it be always

some new water?

And how heavy

is this sedative

I’ve apparently taken?

The narcotic of living

can last decades--

or so we pray.

But why

beg substance

from sleep

anyway?

Be there

substance

or meaning in this

water we scry,

why, there’s no way

be sure. But it does seem

worthwhile to move along

merrily, as

you row, by remembering:

For always

you’ve known

your river tour

will be ending,

so row your boat

gently,

lest you wake up

with a trembling.

November 2017

St. Louis

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