November 19, 2018

Marvin Artis

LIFE

I have this thing that I was given when I was born. 
It’s called a life. I really don’t know how else to
describe it. It’s so big. I can only say what it’s called.

It took me a while to figure out that this big thing was mine,
that I could do with it whatever I wanted.
After I decided what I wanted to do with it,
I changed my mind. Then, I changed my mind again. 
I changed it one more time.

Life, being whatever it is, also seems to have its own mind,
even though it’s yours. It’s like your father or mother or son 
or daughter or dog. They’re yours, but they have their own minds too.
So, at one point, my life said “no” to something I wanted to do. 
Just like that, it said, “no.” I was surprised.

I had this dream in which I was with this beautiful soul whom I loved 
who had the habit of telling me how to speak and what
words to use. Finally, I lost my temper and started screaming that nothing
makes me crazier than being told what to say and how to say it.
I kept screaming, “No, no, no, no!”

Life is like that too. It can scream, “No!” even though it loves you. 
It wants to be itself, to be looked at and loved for what it is, 
not for what you want it to be, especially when it has morning breath,
gets sick, puts on weight, loses its looks, its admirers or its money.
That’s when it wants you to reach out, hold its hand, to tell it
that it’s beautiful and that you will never leave it, even though
it will leave you. It’s so demanding, so precious. It’s something else.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
Tribute to First Publication

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Marvin Artis: “One of the things I’m most interested in, in poetry, is the opportunity to connect things that don’t appear to be connected. To bring my own disparate parts together and to also build that infrastructure internally, and then be able to apply that to my relationships with other people. The more connections I can find between disconnected things, the better my connections are with others.”

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