I am frequently paralysed by
the choices of the modern world:
from how to spend $50
to how to spend my own life
which streaming service to keep?
which show to binge next?
Leaves me flailing
on my back,
like a slater
Perhaps this has always been a problem
on some level,
no doubt exacerbated,
by optical fibre
but, how do you choose what you do
with these ticking hours?
Mary Oliver phrased it beautifully;
‘What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
But sometimes I want to say back to Mary
‘What is it you plan to do with this one wild
selection of Netflix originals?’
Saint that she was,
probably wouldn’t have made the first choice
to even entertain the notion
of the Netflix scroll
She was just choosing which flower
to write her next poem about
and would probably
gently encourage me
towards the hum out the window
of life pulsing electric
through stardust and soil
Ghost Mary reminds me
the choice was never just
whether to rewatch the Matrix trilogy
or try something new
The choice was (and is)
to show up and write
some words on this page
or to distract myself,
catching up to
Of course you can watch movies
and show up
to your creative life
(arguably, it’s essential)
but I know when my own scales
here I am
beneath a thumping fan in the kitchen
I want to write the poems,
Every now and then
in quiet moments,
the desire for ‘greatness’ wells up to my surface
and takes the open mic in my mind’s stage
‘Where is your magnum opus?
Your mass following?
Your literary agent?
Your flowing royalties?
What have you been doing?!
How come you have not been ‘found’ yet?
Why have you not toured the world yet?
Why are you not publicly adored yet?
Well…what will you do about it?’
It is like my ego
has had a few too many drinks
and become narcissistically confident
and deeply self-critical
I feel both berated
remembering that I
am apparently someone special
of best-seller status
and viral TED talk fame
a bulging bank account
Though I have also
missed the boat, the train, the spaceship
I have turned at the wrong times
paused when I should have moved
moved when I should have paused
I have failed
the all-important and never-satisfied god of hustle.
The crushing weight
of my not-so-specialness
presses down upon me
And I’m washed by a wave of
that I have not become great yet
that I have not yet risen
from the ranks of apparent mediocrity
I’m still just here
where life is happening
steadily and quietly
I pour my ego a glass of water
gently caress the microphone
from his trembling hand
sit him down at the bar
I slap him
look him in the eye and say,
You are loved.
Do you think something is only great
if a million people see it?
Do you think being known by strangers
would make you feel more seen
than the eyes of your own children?
Do you think there’s anything out there
you don’t already have, right here?
Do you really think
the wildly successful version of you
in an alternative universe
isn’t still losing sleep over your crap?
And let’s keep walking
the beautiful path before us.
He drinks his water,
wipes a small tear from the corner of his eye
I breathe deeply
in the wonder of my life
and walk outside.
It is happening just like they said it would:
they are growing up fast
I used to hold him like a football
Yesterday he kicked one over the fence
He used to know no words
Yesterday he told me he could see
‘The soft-feathered wings of the day’
6 and he already spins better poetry than me
dresses up like a pirate
like a paramedic
like an astronaut
And I’m still wondering
is he dressing up as a 4 year old?
or has that much time actually passed
since we first met?
They are growing up fast
And you find yourself uttering that phrase
even though you know how cliche it sounds
And I wonder,
if it is just an easy-to-reach-for substitute
for things that are more difficult to say
If you pause too long to ponder
the volumes you’ve already forgotten
the mispronounced words
the day before walking
the night after coming home
it’s dizzying to think about
the rollercoaster tracks in the rearview
And when I say
they’re growing up fast
I think what I really want to say
is that I’m horrified by how casually
I am passing through this gift shop
And I know,
it’s easy to be sentimental
when the household is asleep
and you are writing poems in the quiet hour
And I don’t want to romanticise
the slog of it
the shit of it
the thousand little deaths of it
There are honestly days when I fantasise about
going back to before
back to morning sex
and midday movies
and deciding to go to the beach
and then just going, straight away
this is what horrifies me
more than my kids growing up
It’s the curse of casually spending every season of your life
wanting to space-jump
backwards or forwards
when the miracle, in all its bloody wonder
is always and only ever happening
where you are now.
And you casually let it play
like background music.
You are skim reading the body of your life
You are swallowing without chewing your life
You are driving on auto-pilot through the rich landscapes
of your one life,
Sometimes I feel
like every poem I write is the same
I only really talk about
trying to be present
trying to see the wonder
trying to live and give
from a deep well of gratitude
I write about it so often
because it is
as it is difficult
And the best things are often so
like raising these kids
who are growing up
at the pace of growing up
And maybe all you can show them
is that none of it is casual
none of it is granted
none of it is cheap
Every time oxygen fills those God-given tanks
Every beat that is thumped from that drum in your chest
It is all more dazzlingly wondrous
than any Sci-Fi reality anyone’s ever dreamed of
It is nothing to be casual about.
This everyday miracle.