Other Modes of Being

Sand Dollar
by John Updike
from Tossing and Turning, © 1977

This disc, stelliferous,
survived the tide
to tell us some small creature
lived and died;
its convex delicacy
defies the void
that crushed a vanished

Stoop down, delighted;
hoard in your hand
this sand-colored coin
redeemed from the sand
and know, my young sudden
that other modes of being
do exist.

Behold the horizon.
Vastness acts
the wastrel with
its artifacts.
The sea holds lives
as a dream holds clues;
what one realm spends
another can use.



From Poems From the Sanskrit , translated by John Brough ©1977:

Earth, my own mother; father, Air; and Fire,
My friend; and Water, well-beloved cousin;
and Ether, brother mine: to all of you
This is my last farewell. I give you thanks
For all the benefits you have conferred
during my sojourn with you. Now my soul
Has won clear, certain knowledge, and returns
to the great Absolute from whence it came.


All Things Else

From Poems From the Sanskrit , translated by John Brough ©1977:

Water to quench a blaze,
Shade to keep off the sun’s fierce light,
Goad for the elephant in rut,
Stick for the ox and mule,
Herbs to subdue disease,
Spells for the poison serpent’s bite–
All things else have an antidote:
Nothing can cure a fool.


Time, Time, Time; Look What’s Become of Me…

From Poems From the Sanskrit , translated by John Brough ©1977:

The pleasant city and its mighty king,
The tributary princess at his side,
The learned men that were the kingdom’s pride,
The minstrels with a ready song to sing,
The gracious ladies of the court, the ring
Of haughty nobles, arrogant of birth,
Are conquored by the Lord of all the earth,
Time, who makes memories of everything.


Gollum’s similar riddle to Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, ©1937:

This thing all things devours;
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats mountain down.


“Candy is dandy / but liquor is quicker.” ~Ogden Nash
“Men seldom make passes / at girls who wear glasses.” ~Dorothy Parker

Both of those goofy little rhyming couplets surprised me by having a credited source; the Ogden Nash quote in particular, because I’ve seen it scrawled on so many bathroom stalls.


From Poems From the Sanskrit , translated by John Brough ©1977:

No, but look here now, this is just absurd,
The way our famous poets talk of girls
As weak and winsome. Weak? Is this a word
To use of those who, with a shake of curls
And with the triumph of a modest glance,
Can lead the very gods a merry dance?