June 13, 2007

A litany of balances

From the Best American Poetry 2005 comes this great insightful poem by Samuel Hazo, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly (subscription needed to access this link.)

The bigger the tomb, the smaller the man.
The weaker the case, the thicker the brief.
The deeper the pain, the older the wound.
The graver the loss, the dryer the tears.

The truer the shot, the slower the aim.
The quicker the kiss, the sweeter the taste.
The viler the crime, the vaguer the guilt.
The louder the price, the cheaper the ring.

The higher the climb, the sheerer the slide.
The steeper the odds, the shrewder the bet.
The rarer the chance, the brasher the risk.
The colder the snow, the greener the spring.

The braver the bull, the wiser the cape.
The shorter the joke, the surer the laugh.
The sadder the tale, the dearer the joy.
The longer the life, the briefer the years.

I especially liked what Hazo writes in the Contributor's notes.
"Seesaws almost created itself as a litany of balances, but all the balances seemed in conflict. Each of the things listed created its opposite, but there was always more there than simple opposition. The more I wrote, the more the irony became apparent to me. It was an irony that reminded me of a comment of Aristotle in the Poetics that the essence of drama (read: life) was the presence therein of a seeming contradiction: that the worst, for example, always happens when we think the worst is over; and that there is always a discrepancy between appearance and reality."

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