It’s all right if we do nothing tonight.

The Ant


The ant moves on his tiny Sephardic feet.
The flute is always glad to repeat the same note.
The ocean rejoices in its dusky mansion.

Often bears are piled up close to each other.
In their world it’s just one hump after another.
It’s like looking at piles of many melons.

You and I have spent so many hours working.
We have paid dearly for the life we have.
It’s all right if we do nothing tonight.

I am so much in love with mournful music
That I don’t bother to look for violinists.
The aging peepers satisfy me for hours.

I love to see the fiddlers tuning up their old fiddles,
And the singer urging the low notes to come.
I saw her trying to keep the dawn from breaking.

You and I have worked hard for the life we have.
But we love to remember the way the soul leaps
Over and over into the lonely heavens.

Lake Barkley, Kentucky, July 2010

I don’t always read the poetry in The Atlantic; the poems are kind of oddly smushed into the rest, so if I skip them while focused on the articles it’s likely that I’ll forget to go back. I’m so glad I caught this poem in last year’s July issue.  The third and sixth stanzas have become talismans, unnecessary, but oh-so-necessary, reminders that regardless of the looming work, sometimes it is more important to spend half an hour watching the squirrels with the dog.

I think this poem is just beautiful– the introductory acceptance of the vastly differing forms of existence, the acknowledgement of the necessity of work, the underlying pride in the jobs well-done, the recognition that work, however well-completed, is not the purpose of life.

It’s all right if we do nothing tonight.

eta: There is so much more here, in this poem, that I haven’t quite grasped–which, I suppose, is the beauty of poetry. There is so much striving in the 5th and 6th stanzas–the singer (inevitably ineffectually) trying to keep the dawn from breaking… but (that pivotal conjunction) we remember (it doesn’t happen now) the way the soul leaps (and keeps returning to earth) to the lonely (love that) heavens. The triumph is qualified, but real: the striving, not the achievement. Matched with the theme of the entire, the necessity of rest, this is such a perfect image of the tension, the necessity of balance, in life. In my (as it is my blog) very humble (well, I’m posting it, so clearly not that humble) opinion.

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