We are all emigrants, immigrants in time,
and here are the rules. When you find yourself
in somebody else’s world, take everything
for granted as ordinary. That will save you
the tour guide’s patronizing exaggerations.
Second, learn to shut up deeply enough
that you begin to see. “So far” and “if”
describe most meanings. Third, imagine
that anything declared true must have
plausible contradictions. Try to avoid
believing your simplest needs mean anything
to those charged with satisfying them.
Don’t be effusive for his assistance.
Finally, don’t be surprised at anything
somebody believes, even if he merely hopes
it’s true, wishes, if he needs for it to be.
Many have lost the only or ultimate world
they believe ought to have endured, that
the one before them is totally wrong, temporary,
and the true one will return one day (soon?),
like Arthur from Avalon. That, too, is ordinary.
Try to find out what they take for funny.
That will tell you what they want not to fear,
I mean what they do. Think your own thoughts
are just as old as theirs, and just as altered,
made do with, impressed, being what one had.
Do you know how lucky for you it is to have
your own world overturned, made new.
Gordon Osing is retired from the writing program at the University of Memphis and lives now lakeside in Delta bluffs woods in Eudora, Mississippi, where he is continuing his career in reading and writing and traveling. The River City Writers Series, that he began some thirty-five years ago at the University of Memphis, is still thriving. He sees himself in a continuation of the works of the Southern Modernists, holding language in poetry as re-contextualized, and the poem as artifact with its own protocols and reasons, the ways and means of a poem’s attachments to “truth” belonging peculiarly to poetry.