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Variation on a Theme by Elizabeth Bishop

Start with loss. Lose everything. Then lose it all again.

Lose a good woman on a bad day. Find a better woman,

then lose five friends chasing her. Learn to lose as if

your life depended on it. Learn that your life depends on it.

Learn it like karate, like riding a bike. Learn it, master it.

Lose money, lose time, lose your natural mind.

Get left behind, then learn to leave others. Lose and

lose again. Measure a father’s coffin against a cousin’s

crashing T-cells. Kiss your sister through prison glass.

Know why your woman’s not answering her phone.

Lose sleep. Lose religion. Lose your wallet in El Segundo.

Open your window. Listen: the last slow notes

of a Donny Hathaway song. A child crying. Listen:

a drunk man is cussing out the moon. He sounds like

your dead uncle, who, before he left, lost a leg

to sugar. Shame. Learn what’s given can be taken;

what can be taken, will. This you can bet on without

losing. Sure as nightfall and an empty bed. Lose

and lose again. Lose until it’s second nature. Losing

farther, losing faster. Lean out your open window, listen:

the child is laughing now. No, it’s the drunk man again

in the street, losing his voice, suffering each invisible star.

from Kontemporary Amerikan PoetryFind more by John Murillo at the library

Copyright © 2020 John Murillo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in John Murillo Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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