Aphorisms for a Lonely Planet

by Lance Larsen

1

Conception, gamete meeting gamete, cells dividing and differentiating. Who wants to imagine themselves coming into the world this way? Instead think of your parents as amateurs lying down in the enchanted dark and rising up as seasoned weavers of light.  Picture fire, with sparks flying off. One was lucky enough to catch—and now pulses inside you.  Listen to yourself breathe.

2

Like a rolling billiard ball we touch the world one green millisecond at a time.

3

A good story possesses its own magnetic north, to which every vibrating sentence must point.

4

To live is to doubt.

5

At the exit of the Paris catacombs, which houses the remains of six million sleepers, the guard looked me over, then fanned a flashlight into my backpack: Any bones, any bonesNo, I said, then smuggled my skeleton into the morning.

6

Should I read Descartes or listen to Motown? Depends whether I want to interrogate my doubts or slap them on my feet and dance them under the table.

7

The young are young. The old are young and old at the same time. You have to be old to know this—that’s the problem.

8

Seek labor which both tires and renews.

9

My cat caterwauls at the back door as if she had lost a paw. When I open it, she studies me like Sartre staring into the abyss, but refuses to come in. And we brag that only humans can be poets?

10

Analyzing your first crush is like trying to trace the journey of grape juice through a crazy straw.

11

It took burying my parents to truly become a son. But by then I was an orphan.

12

To write is to erase, to erase is to begin again in hope, to hope is to summon the dead, to summon the dead is to write . . .

13

On an elevator, unless I guard myself, I’ll follow a complete stranger onto the wrong floor. What kind of sheep in a chute am I anyway? These days I shrug it off. Better to sometimes be led benignly astray than always squaring off against the world and pretending I own it.

14

How hopeful, shoes left by the door, like a pair of pooches hungry for a walk.

15

“A transgression of air, a vibration of souls.” I wish you could read this the way I wrote it: in pencil, on the back of a receipt, when we crossed from one green country to another. I mean my first visit to Wales. After wandering Tintern Abbey, I fell asleep in its brokenness. And later petted a blue dog that belonged to gypsies. Did it rain that day?  One of those forgiving mornings when it did even if it didn’t.

_____

Lance Larsen, former poet laureate of Utah, has published five poetry collections, most recently What the Body Knows (Tampa 2018). He has received a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize and an NEA fellowship.  His essays have made the Notables list in Best American Essays six times.  He teaches at BYU, where he serves as department chair and dabbles in aphorisms: “When climbing a new mountain, wear old shoes.”

Illustration by Courtney Barrett

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