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About this Poem 

"I'm trying here to throw light on the concept of meaningful life by exploring different notions of making a contribution, pushing for an expanded view of the roles required to give a full performance to human possibilities. The poet wants to believe that despite appearances everyone in the poem has a part in the play."
—Carl Dennis

Meaning

Carl Dennis

If a life needn’t be useful to be meaningful,
Then maybe a life of sunbathing on a beach
Can be thought of as meaningful for at least a few,
The few, say, who view the sun as a god
And consider basking a form of worship.

As for those devoted to partnership with a surfboard
Or a pair of ice skates or a bag of golf clubs,
Though I can’t argue their lives are useful,
I’d be reluctant to claim they have no meaning
Even if no one observes their display of mastery.

No one is listening to the librarian
I can call to mind as she practices, after work,
In her flat on Hoover Street, the viola da gamba
In the one hour of day that for her is golden.
So what if she’ll never be good enough
To give a concert people will pay to hear?

When I need to think of her with an audience,
I can imagine the ghosts of composers dead for centuries,
Pleased to hear her doing her best with their music.

And isn’t it pleasing, as we walk at dusk to our cars
Parked on Hoover Street, after a meeting
On saving a shuttered hotel from the wrecking ball,
To catch the sound of someone filling a room
We won’t be visiting with a haunting solo?

And then the gifts we receive by imagining
How down at the beach today surfers made sure
The big waves we weren’t there to appreciate
Didn’t go begging for attention.
And think of the sunlight we failed to welcome,
How others stepped forward to take it in.

Copyright © 2013 by Carl Dennis. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 23, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Carl Dennis. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 23, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Carl Dennis

by this poet

poem
I guess I have to begin by admitting
I'm thankful today I don't reside in a country
My country has chosen to liberate,
That Bridgeport's my home, not Baghdad.
Thankful my chances are good, when I leave
For the Super Duper, that I'll be returning.
And I'm thankful my TV set is still broken.
No point in wasting
poem
Today as we walk in Paris I promise to focus
More on the sights before us than on the woman
We noticed yesterday in the photograph at the print shop,
The slender brunette who looked like you
As she posed with a violin case by a horse-drawn omnibus
Near the Luxembourg Gardens. Today I won't linger long
On the
poem
Just yesterday my poem lamenting the power
Of time to sweep away all trace of the beautiful
Seemed done at last, but the light this morning
Shows it to be a sketch, evidence that my vision
Cleared as I slumbered, that my sense of beauty
Grows in the night like corn or bamboo.

Maybe a poem in praise of time