from A Manual for Living
Desire Demands Its Own Attachment
Daunted by disastrous consequences?
Don’t be. Everyone—even you—
delights in devil-scape. Do you
rue more than revel?
Disappointed more than
detached? Even the dog
detours from the stick.
Rein in desire. (Rainin’
Death’s ire.) A porous heart of tears
decked out as diamonds (poor us).
If someone’s declining from their
window as you below go by
if all they fling is damage,
depart, deafened to desire—
that demon, dire.
All Advantages Have a Price
As all vantages, iced with nice, are noosed.
Born—or slept—into or killed for
—a stolen fame is
twice reclaimed. So what if twin-forked
delusion floods your veins since birth.
So what if privilege is a ledge
from which you’ve never jumped. The teeming source
of the mind bucking its stall no one can ride
but you. Every spider spinnerets its own
fib. Every liar sups his own bile. And you,
Miss Curds-and-Whey, since when did your
glabrous eye, unbotoxed lips not
smirk up party beaus. If you lack her ribbons, her
acclaiming mane, just think how craven,
she’s forsaken labial pairs
for the mohair lap of men. We all wear
hair shirts of our own devise. Choose yours
with forethought and abandon.
These two poems are taken from a 24-poem series entitled A Manual for Living, which is based on the Stoic philosopher Epictetus’s posthumous self-help guide of the same name. All the titles are taken from Sharon Lebell’s contemporary translation. They are her chapter headings. I originally intended the series to be an abcedarian of sorts—a manual with at least alphabetic thoroughness and breadth—but I abandoned that project when I felt the poems were becoming too distorted/contorted by the alphabet. But there are vestiges of that generative principle remaining, more so in the earlier poems. Thus, “Desire Demands Its Own Attachment,” the fourth poem in the series, displays its “d”ness quite brashly. “All Advantages Have a Price,” the fifteenth poem, has dispensed with its “n”ness, except for a trace in the opening line’s “nice” and “noosed.”
Sharon Dolin is the author of five books of poems, most recently: Whirlwind (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012) and Burn and Dodge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. She has been awarded the 2013 Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, selected by Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Sharon Dolin lives in New York City, where she teaches at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y and directs the Center for Book Arts Annual Letterpress Poetry Chapbook Competition. For 2013-2014, she is a Drisha Institute Arts Fellow. Other poems from the series A Manual for Living have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Georgia Review, jubilat, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Pool, Spillway, and The Spoon River Poetry Review. In the works are at least two prose books: The Book of Lost Aphorisms and a cinematic memoir entitled Hitchcock Blonde. Recent sections from The Book of Lost Aphorisms have been published in the Denver Quarterly, The Seneca Review, and The Kenyon Review Online. www.sharondolin.com