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Location: Kentucky, United States

Monday, September 09, 2002

Courage

Courage by Anne Sexton

It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first ing when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you’ll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you’ll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you’ll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.


I found this poem above while reading my way through some of my favorite Lit sites. It is hung in my mind. When I was young I dreamed all the big dreams. I wanted to be a flame. If there was nothing new under the sun, then I would reach farther than the sun. Life would be my art and time would be my canvas. To live brightly, to be in the insecurity of the moment, the ever "now". To paint broad and wild swaths of experience on the backs of my eyes. To never stop, to never give in, to "rage against the dying of the light." But night comes and we must rest. The arm grows weary of the brush. Our Howling turns to noise and the ear grows dull with hearing. Or to quote a greeting card I had once. "Any idiot can handle a crisis, it's the day to day living that gets us down."

There of course is the magic. If it's the endless drop, drop of daily life that wears us down, it's the "little" miracles of daily life that are the most amazing. "The child’s first step, as awesome as an earthquake." So common, and yet a moment painted in bright colors on the backs of my eyes. "When they called you crybaby or poor or fatty or crazy and made you into an alien, you drank their acid and concealed it." Incredible violence of the soul. Ugly meaningless pain, yet what power is revealed to rise above it.

Grand we are , and amazing.



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