Friday, April 16, 2010


What is to waste a life?

James Wright has a suggestion:

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly, 

Asleep on the black trunk, 

Blowing like a leaf in green shadow. 

Down the ravine behind the empty house, 

The cowbells follow one another 

Into the distances of the afternoon. 

To my right, 

In a field of sunlight between two pines, 

The droppings of last year's horses 

Blaze up into golden stones. 

I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on. 

A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.

I have wasted my life.

That last line. It hurts.


  1. That last line would hurt, if it were true.

    The other day I panicked as the day passed too quickly and I got nothing done. But really, underneath the not getting done it was the not receiving that I grieved. If I do not open myself to the day, if I do not feel or think or receive, then I have truly wasted the day. I had. I had wasted that day up until that time. I opened my front door and went out to my lilac bushes. They are beginning to bud. I tipped my face to the sky and began snipping off the dead heads of last year to invigorate those beginning to push through this year. I slowed. My breathing returned. Panic left. I felt. My day regained significance. Now, did I make a difference in the world? Did I accomplish anything real? Not really, in relationship to the world, but perhaps I did in relationship to a pushing through bud; most definitely I did in relationship to me and the outdoors. Was my life less wasted for that simple motion of dead heading last year's lilacs? Surely from the outside, my life would seem insignificant, but from the inside, I felt mighty fine.

    All we have of value are our moments of opening.


  2. I'd say a day watching butterflies was a day well spent. Our fast food, fast-paced, instant gratification society is killing us. We need to STOP, look around and write a freaking poem about it. Fabulous post!!!! Blessings!

  3. If anyone took the time to notice all the beauty this poem speaks of...they have lived well. That last line speaks of a life I pontificated for, oh...too long. My deafness considered a disability by many, gave the gift of days like this poem. No...I no longer waste my life. (Hugs)Indigo

  4. Erin -

    The beauty of a day well spent - breathing into those lilacs, urging them to grow, grow. Your description makes my heart calm, my mind slow down and stop that incessant hunt for meaning through doing.

    ....moments of opening - I love that....

    Yet. That last line still hurts. Not because resting the eyes on a sleeping butterfly is a waste of time. Not because listening to the cow bells does not contain an accomplishment. Rather the opposite. I read the poem as in - It is the NOT noticing that is painful. And having suddenly realized you have lived a life without really paying attention, surely, that must feel like a life wasted.

    Marion -

    Yes, write! Perhaps this is the poet’s contribution to our climate: to teach us to s - l - o - w down, to notice, and then - to write a freaking poem! That should certainly ensure a change of pace (I certainly use a - g - e - s!)

    Indigo -

    So you can’t hear those cow bells. But you know something about paying attention. You listen deeply, through your eyes, your skin, your nose. You have experienced those corners that I cannot reach. Thank you for reminding me life is so much more than what I know.

    Outside the sun is shining (despite those volcanic clouds raining ash down upon us, keeping our airports closed). I must go out, I must whisper to those apple trees, the tulip bulbs, the blades of grass - grow, grow.....