I’ll know the names of all of the birds
and flowers, and not only that, I’ll
tell you the name of the piano player
I’m hearing right now on the kitchen
radio, but I won’t be in the kitchen,
I’ll be walking a street in
New York or London, about
to enter a coffee shop where people
are reading or working on their
laptops. They’ll look up and smile.
Next time I won’t waste my heart
on anger; I won’t care about
being right. I’ll be willing to be
wrong about everything and to
concentrate on giving myself away.
Next time, I’ll rush up to people I love,
look into their eyes, and kiss them, quick.
I’ll give everyone a poem I didn’t write,
one specially chosen for that person.
They’ll hold it up and see a new
world. We’ll sing the morning in,
and I will keep in touch with friends,
writing long letters when I wake from
a dream where they appear on the
Orient Express. “Meet me in Istanbul,”
I’ll say, and they will.
Ah yes, next time. I think by now I’m pretty clear there will be no next time; there is only this lifetime, this moment. But imagining all the things I might do and be if I lived my life again can point me toward how I live right now. I love how the poet creates this turn around for us that clearly shows us this time, not next time.
I often wish I was more familiar with naming birds, flowers, trees but I can be content with just having their beauty in my days unnamed, just as I can enjoy music without knowing the artist or the lyrics.
Next time I won’t waste my heart / on anger. Now there is something to aspire to remembering, not being righteous, rather to / concentrate on giving myself away. I think that may be the most important line in this poem. If we cannot give our whole selves away in this life, then when??
Next time, no, this time, I tell people that I love them, often and sincerely. And of course I continue to give them poems, chosen for that person or just because you might be touched by them. I do keep in touch with friends because what could be more important, more alive?
I may not get to Istanbul but it is equally important and necessary to me to meet them in the local coffee shop (distancing notwithstanding), to give myself away and receive the generous gifts of others. No need to wait for the next time.