Poem of the Hour

LIFE’S PILGRIM

by Geoffrey Chaucer

FLY from the press, and dwell with soothfastness;

Suffice unto thy good, though it be small,
For hoard hath hate, and climbing tickleness ;

Preise hath envie, and weal is blent o’er all.

Savor no more than thee behoven shall,
Rede well thy self that other folk can’st rede,
And Truth thee shalt deliver ’tis no drede.

That thee is sent receive in buxomness :
The wrestling of this world, asketh a fall.

Here is no home, here is but wilderness.
Forth, pilgrim, forth on, best out of thy stall;
Look up on high, and thank the God of all!

Weivith thy lust, and let thy ghost thee lead,

And Truth thee shalt deliver ’tis no drede.

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It was a Dark and Sleepless Night

I roll over and look at the clock. The neon-green digits stand like property tax assessors at the door. 2:44. I wish I hadn’t looked. I’m wide awake and suffering through my third head cold of the season. I’ve taken enough medication to give myself a two-digit IQ and no feeling in my feet. I look at my husband next to me sleeping in childlike repose, sleeping deeply. Who will without a doubt, sleep until his alarm goes off hours from now.

I listen to a siren in the distance. I listen to the furnace running. I listen to the cat jump off the end of the bed, scratch itself at the collar, and then proceed to lick the cord of the humidifier.  I go to the bathroom. When I come back, the cat–a vague and  dark circular shape–has taken my spot, laying claim to the warmth I gave it.

We share. I turn on my lamp and grab the book I’ve been reading since November ’09: Moby-Dick. Yeah, I know. It’s taking me longer to read it than it took Melville to write it. Still, the book is a classic for many reasons and every page I turn seems to embody some message that’s eternally applicable. Take these lines for example, which Melville specifically wrote for me:

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”

I might as well get up and work on my novel. The thing isn’t going to write itself is it now. I make coffee in the dark and, while it’s brewing, I look at the urban sky through the windows.  I look at the silhouettes of the trees, the houses, the shops. I look at the cars lined in the street, full of winter crust. I haven’t washed my own car in weeks. I should have while the weather was warmer of course. Now it’s too cold. Now I might as well drive the thing into some woods and let the deer use it as a salt lick.

At last, the coffee is done and my unfinished novel waiting. For all those writers awake with me here in the dark, I’ll leave you with another fine and heartening quote by Melville:

“But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.”