Poem a Day – 09-08-2014

Poem a Day: New and classic poems provided by the Academy of American Poets

Survivor Guilt

Ron Padgett

It’s very easy to get.
Just keep living and you’ll find yourself
getting more and more of it.
You can keep it or pass it on,
but it’s a good idea to keep a small portion
for those nights when you’re feeling so good
you forget you’re human. Then drudge it up
and float down from the ceiling
that is covered with stars that glow in the dark
for the sole purpose of being beautiful for you,
and as you sink their beauty dims and goes out –
I mean it flies out the nearest door or window,
its whoosh raising the hair on your forearms.
If only your arms were green, you could have two small lawns!
But your arms are just there and you are kaput.
It’s all your fault, anyway, and it always has been –
the kind word you thought of saying but didn’t,
the appalling decline of human decency, global warming,
thermonuclear nightmares, your own small cowardice,
your stupid idea that you would live forever –
all tua culpa. John Phillip Sousa
invented the sousaphone, which is also your fault.
Its notes resound like monstrous ricochets.

But when you wake up your body
seems to fit fairly well, like a tailored suit,
and you don’t look too bad in the mirror.
Hi there, feller! Old feller, young feller, who cares?
Whoever it was who felt guilty last night,
to hell with him. That was then.

About the poem: “‘Survivor Guilt’ is not about feeling bad about watching ‘Survivor’ (the TV show). It’s about fickleness (a word we don’t hear much anymore). Plus ca change … but what interests me is the way the poem itself changed as I wrote it.” – Ron Padgett

About Ron Padgett: Ron Padgett is the author of “Collected Poems” (Coffee House Press, 2013). His new collection, “Alone and Not Alone,” is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2015. He’s a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, lives in New York City and spends time in Vermont.

The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, whose aim is to make poetry available to a wider audience. Email The Academy at poem-a-day@poets.org.

(c) 2014 Ron Padgett. Distributed by King Features Syndicate
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