And if I speak of Paradise,
then I’m speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no one else would know but me.
That way they can’t steal it, she’d say.
And if life puts you under pressure,
trace its ridges in your pocket,
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief,
hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily,
get yourself to an empty room – be it hotel,
hostel or hovel – find a lamp
and empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning, and keep staring at it till you sleep.
Paradise originally meant ‘an enclosed garden’, so I’ve heard, perhaps Eden or even heaven. But in this poem, Robinson is speaking of the now, this moment, wherever you are. I’ve also heard of it as a ‘place of contentment’ which suits me just fine – I know what my paradise moments are; I’m sure you do too.
I didn’t have a grandmother who advised me to carry it always on my person so I’d be the only one to know it existed, but I think we all learned something about this. How there is a place, whether in space, time, memory that we know is our own paradise. And you know if life puts you under pressure, what we commonly call stress these days, its outline is there to feel in your pocket, smell its piney scent… hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily, and whose are not, then he advises us to find an empty room and empty that paradise from your pocket onto a desk: your white sands, green hills and fresh fish. Love that he includes water through fish; I need my maritime touchstones. Then he says Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope / of morning, knowing it will take you into sleep – a peace that you carry with you, always within reach.
What is your paradise? Do you keep it close? Does it bring you contentment? Know that no one can take it from you – it’s portable; it belongs to you. May you know the paradise of this moment.