Next Line, Please

Reasons to Live

By David Lehman | June 14, 2016


This week’s prompt turned out to be extremely difficult. I asked people to express “why it’s good to be alive” in 25 words or less, verse or prose.

Here are two excellent responses that could not be more different in tone and verse technique:

Millicent Caliban

The Afterlife gets mixed reviews,
Eternity can drag.
Our mortal play has wit and pace,
Delight may be achieved through pain,
Serenity through grace.

Berwyn Moore 

Lines for a friend who died from cancer:

And in your last exuberant breath, you knew—
as definite as water or bark—that the reasons
for loving far outweigh the reasons for living.

I admire, too, Angela Ball’s “Why it’s Good to be Alive”:

Figs from the tree
you planted, bread
from yeast that share
your home, coffee
that serves the rough
word “burlap,” excellent
to the tongue.

There were other fine entries from Paul Michelsen, Byron, Charise Hoge, and Patricia Smith. To all, my thanks. I must admit that I made several attempts of my own and was reminded of the list Woody Allen gives in Manhattan—a list that includes Cézanne’s apples and pears, Groucho Marx, Willie Mays, the second movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Louis Armstrong’s “Potato Head Blues,” Swedish movies, Flaubert’s “Sentimental Education,” Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and “the crabs at Sam Wo’s.”

As we head into summer with all its warmth, isn’t it time for the summer haiku sweepstakes? I think so. Seventeen syllables divided into three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables each. The season should be named.

Deadline: Sunday, June 19, 2016.

Thanks, everyone.

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