for Monica and Matthew

Do you avoid holding still for photographs?


Every body is an expert.


Art must help life improve,
not lift it up to be admired

by whoever has the culture and time
to do the admiring.


Will you start celebrating
May Day with the rest of us?


Revise all thought
(yes, even the revisions
and, yes, even this stricture).


Frames get dusty;
books are musty;
when a player turns
the pages of a score
there’s this crusty sound.

Living drama occurs
offstage, offscreen, unscripted,
a stormy performance

yes 2

by crowds swirling up streets,
any artist who’s gutsy and trusty
playing a gusty part.


Is confiscation just?


Each individual mind
is the collective work
of countless brains.


Nurture the emergent.


Expect from children
the betrayal of indifference.

Count on the opprobrium
of any new regime.


Whatever else, depend on people
to nudge the language along:

there’s a mumbling forward in how the yes
that once affirmed agreement

has become muddled with the yes
needed to reach a compromise

or the conciliatory yes
that acknowledges needed adjustments

or the noncommittal yes
that fails to mask dwindling interest

yes 3

or the excited yes
that expresses passing bliss,

even the last of these yeses,/em>
lacking the force of the yes

that asserts positive dissent.


Do you understand you’ll waste much of your life
listening to the self-reliant lying to themselves?

William Aarnes has two collections of poems—Learning to Dance (1991) and Predicaments (2001)—both published by Ninety-Six Press. Recent poems have appeared in Poetry Quarterly and Red River Review.