Borrowed Words

There are times when I am lost for words. It is then that I turn to my favorite poets.

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;

– Excerpt from If by Rudyard Kipling

I could be the waitress
in the airport restaurant
full of tired cigarette smoke and unseeing tourists.
I could turn into the never-noticed landscape
hanging identically in all the booths
or the customer behind the Chronicle
who has been giving advice about stock portfolios for forty years.
I could be his mortal weariness,
his discarded sports section, his smoldering ashtray.
I could be the 70-year-old woman who has never seen Hawaii,
touching her red lipstick and sprayed hair.
I could enter the linen dress
that poofs around her body like a bridesmaid,
or become her gay son
sitting opposite her, stirring another sugar
into his coffee for lack of something true to say.
I could be the reincarnated soul of the composer
of the Muzak that plays relentlessly overhead,
or the factory worker who wove this fake Oriental carpet,
or the hushed shoes of the busboy.

But I don't want to be the life of anything in this pitstop.
I want to go to Hawaii, the wet, hot
impossible place in my heart that knows just what it desires.
I want money, I want candy.
I want sweet ukelele music and birds who drop from the sky.
I want to be the volcano who lavishes
her boiling rock soup love on everyone,
and I want to be the lover
of volcanos, who loves best what burns her as it flows.

On Not Flying to Hawaii by Alison Luterman

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced among the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats

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