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On average, 5 people are born every second and 1.78 die.
So we’re ahead by 3.22, which is good, I think.

The average person will spend two weeks in his life
waiting for the traffic light to change.

Pubescent girls wait two to four years
for the tender lumps under their nipples to grow.

So the average adult has over 1,460 dreams a year,
laughs 15 times a day. Children, 385 more times.

So the average male adult mates 2,580 times with five different people
but falls in love only twice in his life—possibly

with the same person. Seventy-nine long years for each of us,
awakened to love in our twenties, so more or less

thirty years to love our two lovers each. And if, in a lifetime,
one walks a total of 13,640 miles by increments,

Where are you headed, traveler?
is a valid philosophical question to pose to a man, I think, along with

Why does the blood in your veins travel endlessly?
on account of those red cells flowing night and day

through the traffic of the blood vessels, which if laid out
in a straight line would be over 90,000 miles long.

The great Nile River in Egypt is 4,180 miles long.
The great circle of the earth’s equator is 24,903 miles.

Dividing this green earth among all of us
gives a hundred square feet of living space to each,

but our brains take only one square foot of it,
along with the 29 bones of the skull, so

if you look outside your window with your mind only,
why do you hear the housefly hum middle octave, key of F?

If you listen to the cat on the rug by the fire with
the 32 muscles in your ear, you will hear

100 different vocal sounds. Listen to the dog
wishing for your love: 10 different sounds.

If you think loneliness is beyond calculation,
think of the mole digging a tunnel underground

ninety-eight miles long to China
in one single night. If you think beauty escapes you

or your entire genealogical tree, consider the slug
with its four uneven noses, or the chameleon shifting colors

under an arbitrary light. Think of the deepest point
in the deepest ocean, the Marianas Trench in the Pacific,

do you think anyone’s sadness can be deeper? In 1681,
the last dodo bird died. In the 16th century,

Queen Elizabeth suffered from a fear of roses.
Anne Boleyn had six fingers. People fall in love

twice. The human heart beats 3 billion times — only — in a lifetime.
If you attempt to count all the stars in the galaxy, one

every second, it’ll take 3 thousand years, if you’re lucky.
As owls are the only birds that can see the color blue

the ocean is bluish, along with the sky and the eyes
of that boy who died alone by that little unnamed river

in your dreams one blue night of the war
of one of your lives. (Do you remember which one?)

Duration of World War 1: four years, 3 months, 14 days.
Duration of an equatorial sunset: 128 seconds, 142 tops.

A neuron’s impulse takes 1/1000 of a second,
a morning’s commute from Prospect Expressway

to the Brooklyn Bridge, about 90 minutes,
forty-five without traffic.

Time it takes for a flower to wilt after it’s cut from the stem: five days.
Time left our sun before it runs out of light: five billion years.

Hence the number of happy citizens under the red glow
of that sun: maybe 50% of us, 50% on good days, tops.

Number who are sad: maybe 70% on the good days—especially on the good days. (The first emotion’s more intense, I think,

when caught up with the second.) So children grow faster in the summer,
their bright blue bodies expanding. The ocean, after all, is blue

which is why the sky now outside your window is bluish
expanding with the white of something beautiful, like clouds.

Fact: The world is a beautiful place—once in a while.
Another fact: We fall in love twice. Maybe more, if we’re lucky.

Arkaye Kierulf, “Textbook Statistics” (via hiddenshores)
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A flash of sudden joy
From the solar plexus
Where fear usually resides,
She knew she’d be okay.
“There is no other life
Apart from this one,” she
Said to no one in particular.
The building gleamed
In the midday rain. The cats
Ate their turkey dinner. She
Screened phone call after
Phone call. A wild loneliness
Descended like a flock of
Robins drained of their red.
Nothing seemed to matter
Anymore, not the past with
Its ax of granite nor the future
With its watery punctuation,
But the moment, yes the moment,
She was forced into it like
So much dough between
The fingers. “God bless us all,”
She said aloud to everyone and no one.
There is no other life.

Noelle Kocot, “Fugue”, in The Bigger World (via hiddenshores)
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First day of class, I ask the students, by way
of introduction, what they believe:
Language is our best tool, or language fails
to express what we know and feel.
We go around the room.
Almost everyone sides with failure.
Is it because they’re young,
still find it hard to say what they mean?
Or are they romantics, holding music and art, the body,
anything wordless as the best way in?
I think about the poet helping his wife to die,
calling his heart helpless as crushed birds
and the soles of her feet the voices of children
calling in the lemon grove, because the tool
must sometimes be bent to work.

Sitting next to my friend in her hospital bed,
she tells me she’s not going to make it,
doesn’t think she wants to,
all year running from the deep she’s now drowning in.
I change the flowers in the vase,
rub cream into her hands and feet.
When I lean down to kiss her goodbye,
I whisper I love you, words that maybe
have lost their meaning, being asked to stand
for so many unspoken particulars.

The sky when I walk to the parking lot
this last weekend of summer
is an opal, the heat pinkening above the trees
which dusk turns the color of ash.

Everything we love fails, I didn’t tell my students,
if by fails we mean ends or changes,
if by love we mean what sustains us.
Language is what honors the vanishing.
Or is language what slows the leaving?
Or does it only deepen what we know of loss?

My students believe it’s important
to get the words right.
Once said, they can never be retrieved.
It takes years to learn to be awkward.
At their age, each word must be carefully chosen
to communicate the yes, but also leave room
for the not really, just kidding, a gateway car
with the engine running.

Inside us, constellations,
bit thread knotted into night’s black drape.
There are no right words,
if by right we mean perfect,
if by perfect we mean able to save us.

Jaqueline Berger, from “The Failure of Language”, in ‘The Gift That Arrives Broken’ (via hiddenshores)
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I can learn you
by touch & guesswork
or not. Meanwhile I hold you
in my hands, true, wondering what
to make of you and what you’ll make
of me. A gesture of
of the hands, clear
as water. The letter A.

Margaret Atwood, from “Small Poems for the Winter Solstice”, in ‘True Stories’ (via hiddenshores)
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At 19, I read a sentence that re-terraformed my head: “The level of matter in the universe has been constant since the Big Bang.”
In all the aeons we have lost nothing, we have gained nothing – not a speck, not a grain, not a breath. The universe is simply a sealed, twisting kaleidoscope that has reordered itself a trillion trillion trillion times over.
Each baby, then, is a unique collision – a cocktail, a remix – of all that has come before: made from molecules of Napoleon and stardust and comets and whale tooth; colloidal mercury and Cleopatra’s breath: and with the same darkness that is between the stars between, and inside, our own atoms.
When you know this, you suddenly see the crowded top deck of the bus, in the rain, as a miracle: this collection of people is by way of a starburst constellation. Families are bright, irregular-shaped nebulae. Finding a person you love is like galaxies colliding. We are all peculiar, unrepeatable, perambulating micro-universes – we have never been before and we will never be again. Oh God, the sheer exuberant, unlikely face of our existences. The honour of being alive. They will never be able to make you again. Don’t you dare waste a second of it thinking something better will happen when it ends. Don’t you dare.

Caitlin Moran (via hiddenshores)
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Short stories are my favorite thing to read. I like to be shown just enough of a situation to get a sense of the characters and be lead to some empathetic moment. Ideally, that’s what I’d like to achieve with my songs. I just want to describe enough details to drop the listener into a situation and let them feel something along with the people in the songs, and maybe wonder about what will happen next.

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Now that I am almost never the youngest person in any room I realize that what I miss most about those times is the very thing that drove me so mad back when I was living in them. What I miss is the feeling that nothing has started yet, that the future towers over the past, that the present is merely a planning phase for the gleaming architecture that will make up the skyline of the rest of my life. But what I forget is the loneliness of all that. If everything is ahead then nothing is behind. You have no ballast. You have no tailwinds either. You hardly ever know what to do, because you’ve hardly done anything. I guess this is why wisdom is supposed to be the consolation prize of aging. It’s supposed to give us better things to do than stand around and watch in disbelief as the past casts long shadows over the future.

Meghan Daum, “Not What It Used to Be” (from The Unspeakable, via Brain Pickings)
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Your greatest need is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters your mind. You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life, work on controlling your mind. In most cases, that’s the only thing you should be trying to control.

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What I craved at this point was not love, or romance, or a life added to mine, but conversation, which was harder to find.

Mavis Gallant (via lostkitteninthestreets)