Friday, October 27, 2017

The Smallness of Life

(To Katy)

the smallness of my life, I said,
can you see it?
But she said nothing,
she just wrote
a series of details
and small spaces.
My life used to spread, I said,
over pot-holed streets and easy laughter,
a time when youth was
just another smell in the air.
But she said nothing,
she just sniffed;
from where she stood,
she could smell it still.
But my life has stretched so thin, I said,
it has shrunk into this square mile
between where I sleep and where I yawn.
This corner of the world, I said,
that I call my own;
this bit of the earth
I staked as home.

This piece of life, I said,
that I squander at will;
this circle of friends
I ignore to call.

This head resting on my hip,
this hour of the day when the sky
looks like Mary in front of the cross.

This hollow in my heart
where they used to be;
this cat, this breath, this,
this smallness of my life...
But she said nothing,
she just blinked.
Her life wasn't any bigger.

(Originally post on January 30, 2006)


katy said...

you know.

Anonymous said...

ouch! :(

katy said...

dear anonymous,


i suspect you interpret arch the wrong way here. he is not calling my life small. by small i assume you assume little, perhaps even low. do you understand small as something bad?

by small i understand arch as meaning something very different to bad or low. the smallness of life, perhaps, is in reference to how small a life might be in comparison to someone as mighty and famous as an idol, as frank ohara, as dalida, as... but it also means something about the details. life can be small. life can be made up of small things. yet, still, in its smallness, life can be great.

what arch is so beautifully and delicately showing us here is that "she" has all the same things has "i". nothing more nothing less.

"i" just doesn't realize it until "she" shows him. perhaps "i" feels, at first, that "she" must have something he does not.

there is no ouch in that... unless there is pain in his revelation. though it can only be the pain of a smile on a face that has been without for too long. even that, i think, i know, mustn't be so. arch smiles as much as he cries.

arch.memory said...


But of course it is 'ouch!'. Ouch for you, and ouch for me, and ouch for the person who wrote it, and hopefully ouch for everyone reading it. I think the realization of the finiteness and, well, smallness of our lives is one of the hardest things that we can face. But I also think that it is through that finiteness that we realize the preciousness of what we have, because it is all we have. And if that doesn't make us go 'ouch!', little will...

katy said...

my stomach makes me go ouch.

i understand what you mean, but everyone has the option to focus more on the preciousness than the finiteness. don't we?

katy said...

still feeling a bit fragile from last night... thank you for this poem. i read it like i would take medicine. like a cough drop. reading it out sooths. understanding everything it means... you're magnificent arch.

katy said...

... medicine ...