Saturday, February 28, 2009

Feeling Fortunate

Life is a strange conglomeration of planned and unplanned events. Today began unfolding itself in quite an ordinary fashion: I checked both the fun and boring parts off the list. I was driving back to my apartment feeling relaxed and found my street blocked off, and then another street, and then another... I glanced nervously around and gunned it the wrong way down a one-way street so I could return my car to its proper parking space. I paused. I took an extra moment because it felt good to be someplace that felt like home. Then I raced up to my unit and out onto its freezing cold balcony. There, I watched the fire department extinguish a smoky blaze across the street.

Most of the time I feel fortunate. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by life’s complications and it troubles me for a short time; I may seek reassurance in these fleeting moments. There is less uncertainty about my good fortune now that I can look out my window to see the charred remains of another home. If you’re reading this, I hope you realize that you are fortunate too.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Every Morning I Awaken

It’s every morning I awaken cold
A curtain crack first sunray tiptoes in
Deceptive light no warmth just my chagrin
As winter bitter numbness seizes hold
A sacrificial slaughter masked by gold
Of chilling daylight now to freeze my skin
Arrested breath a spectre trapped within
Assaults my spirit stirring fears untold

My courage dwindles knowing this defeat
Of soul is dangling o’er me as a string
That I must sever soon to feel well
My heart will surely welcome home the heat
That coming spring and newfound love may bring
To this lethargic logy prostrate shell


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Most Fragile Thing

“Between us and heaven or hell there is only life half-way, the most fragile thing in the world.”

This is a breathtaking reflection on how delicate life truly is. Whether there is a heaven, a hell, or just the empty vacuum of space, it stands to reason that my life is a brittle, insignificant speck somewhere in its midst. At any moment, this life could splinter into a million undetectable, unrecognizable pieces. That’s how I feel when I consider religion, cosmology, and even human history. Each exerts its influence, pushes, squeezes, and squashes me; so far, I remain intact.

I borrowed this quote from Blaise Pascal’s Pensées. Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and physicist who became deeply religious late in life and abandoned most of his scientific research. I think he was most famous for “Pascal’s Wager” in which he argues that it’s irrational to bet against his faith since it promises an infinite reward (salvation) in exchange for risking something finite (life). In probably theory, the expected return of such a wager is also infinite which is a fancy way of saying that the risk is nil. (An aside: I took a seminar called “Thinking about Infinity” in which I refuted this argument in an essay. In essence, I claimed that life was not finite but infinitesimal and therefore the expected return of this wager is ambiguous and can be anything between zero and infinity.)


Monday, February 23, 2009

Hollywood endings

Hollywood endings
always take place
in one zip code


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ashumet Pond

The water glistens, summer sun imbued
In zigzags on the surface of our pond:
Ashumet. Two wood ducks commence a feud
For one small crumb; I’ve learnt that they are fond
Of toes and if you look away they’ll peck
At them. Below us, sand that’s coarse and thick
Is lad’n with rounded rocks. Half-dazed, I check
Around; I lazily reach and grab a stick
And toss it. J--, with tail wagging, could
Retrieve it... Down the dock and off the end,
J-- swims out to a soggy piece of wood.
Wrong piece! An earnest try from man’s best friend.
     Dusk comes. The sun, quite humble in defeat,
     Implores us both to go inside and eat.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Time's Deception

time suddenly stops
everything freezes over
a gigantic snow globe
          encapsulates the whole world
tiny flakes begin to fall slowly,
          and then rapidly
                    and then cease
harmony and symmetry
stillness prevails
where are we..
          glazed over by a fine layer of snow ?
          buried in an avalanche..


Wednesday, February 18, 2009


as i sit motionlessly
my mind teeters nervously while
Patience silently wraps her soft arm around me and
obstructs my perception so
i blindly wonder what lies just beyond her perhaps
Happiness with her enticing gaze and
toothy smile or
Despair with her forlorn droopy eyes or maybe
Frustration with her furrowed brow or even
Contentment with her narrow grin and
absent stare and
then i realize it must be Time
gently yet firmly queuing all of the others


Monday, February 16, 2009

Birthday wishes

I don't want much, but
for my birthday:
a time machine, an ice cream cake and a kiss.
But a time machine is of fiction,
an ice cream cake melts and
a kiss is fleeting.
Tomorrow comes, I've already forgotten.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day
flowers and chocolates
mark the fortunate


Life is a Journey

There’s an interesting poem by Rabbi Alvin Fine that describes life: “Birth is a beginning / And death a destination / But life is a journey ... We see that victory lies not / At some high point along the way / But in having made the journey / Stage by stage / A sacred pilgrimage ...”

Even though I’m not a particularly religious person, this is a powerful and overwhelming concept. I saw this in a prayer book when I was a small child and it stuck with me. I’ve tried to live by it. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m in a rut and the next high place is so remote that I can’t possibly bear waiting. So I try to emphasize the importance of appreciating the present for all that it offers. I feel I’m succeeding in becoming more patient--at least most of the time.

As I meet others on their respective journeys who find themselves in similar ruts, I hope that I help them to emerge. I pray that, rather than just being a step along the way, I succeed in accompanying them to their high points.


Thursday, February 12, 2009


Perpetual loop
          without an end
Echoes resound
          one finds no friend
Falling rapidly
          the sounds deafen, and then
Senses dulled, it starts again

I'll post old poems as I come across them. I wrote this one over ten years ago when I was barely a teenager; it's among the oldest poems I've saved and it's one of my favourites.

quick! say something random

a friend says:
“quick! say something random”
i respond, “gummi worms”
he pauses and
bursts into laughter
“you had me there”


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

soft hug

a soft hug--
worldly troubles melt
while time stands still



buttercream cupcake
sweet and sugary taste
of spring approaching



less expensive
once cooked


Monday, February 9, 2009

Girl at the party

I meet a girl at the party.
She looks into my eyes and
I gaze at my watch. Then
she glances nervously at the clock.
We go our separate ways.
A time passes.
I see the girl and
she smiles. So I ask her:
“Is it good for you?”
And she nods and looks into my eyes.
A time passes.
I wake up, I rub my eyes.


Relative versus Absolute

Recently, a friend of mine tells me I’m a good piano player. Has she heard a concert pianist? What about Elton John? Or Liberace? Someone else tells me her life is complicated and I see that she worries. What about children in developing countries who don’t have enough to eat? Is ‘complicated’ bad? Another person vents because he cannot decide which woman he likes. Is this some terrible curse? Does he expect sympathy?

We perceive our world within its relative context. I don’t know the greatest piano player, the poorest child, or the most-loved individual in the world. I haven’t met the happiest person and I don’t know whose heart was broken in the most malicious way. Frankly, I don’t care.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

the fork

ambling along a winding dirt trail
i come to a fork, with two distinct branches
my hands clasp together, the humid air’s stale
i check both directions to ponder my chances

the left branch is rocky and treacherous too
i fear i might slip and fall almost a mile
the trail has briars, the handgrips are few
and it spirals around on itself for a while
the sun seems to beat with a hundred degrees
and show off its brawn with a blinding white stare
the snickering footpath is deaf to my pleas
while hedges and ledges scream: “traveler beware!”
the journey’s exciting and leaves me some hope
that success-–though uncertain-–will help me to cope

the right branch is lazy with nothing to hide
it flows and meanders through meadows and farms
the trail-–while ragged-–is level and wide
and relentlessly coaxes me into its arms
the cloudy grey skies emit boredom and sighs
a tired old wind holds perpetual reign
far in the distance a lone drifter cries
as the biting cold steadily drives him insane
this other path’s dull but much safer for sure
i know i’ll survive and my strength will endure

having assessed both the paths that i’m facing
(which brings me happiness? which brings me sorrow?)
my arms fall akimbo and mind ceases racing
i sit at the fork and i wait for tomorrow


Saturday, February 7, 2009

First Poem

I never received a poem, at least
not something special for me.
So I sit and I tap and I pretend
to do work. I wonder,
and I think. And I tap, and I pretend
and all the while my pulse thumps:
thump, thump, thump,
and I think some more.

I jotted this down for a friend who had never received a poem. Curious, I asked other friends and they had no recollection of receiving poetry either. You give me substance to write about and therefore these poems are yours to share.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Nervous to Blog

Taking the first step is usually the toughest part of finishing something.

I think of all the deadlines I’ve had in my life: lab reports in high school, term papers in college, and PowerPoint presentations at work. I procrastinate like everyone else. I will never wait until the night before and pop caffeine pills. I do, however, wait until the ninth or tenth hour. Given six weeks to finish an assignment, I will proceed as follows:
* Days 1-37: wait
* Day 38: compose outline
* Day 39: compose rough draft (typically the longest night)
* Day 40: compose near-final draft
* Day 41: sleep on it (surprisingly important!)
* Day 42: change a few words around and submit

I feel miserable until I start the process but I still wait. Perhaps I’m lazy. More likely, it’s difficult for me to start something because I feel like it will set the tone for everything that follows. And I don’t want to make a mistake in the early stages. So I wait until an idea strikes me in some random flash of brilliance--and when that doesn’t happen--I wait until the deadline approaches.

The irony is that my finished product is usually quite far from where I started. I could have saved myself days of misery if I had only known better.


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