Agree to Accept the Experience and Eat a Strawberry


Bad things are going to happen.
 Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
 and your cat will get run over.
 Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream 
melting in the car and throw
 your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.

Your husband will sleep 
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
 out of her blouse. Or your wife 
will remember she’s a lesbian 
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
 that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
 every four hours. Your parents will die.

No matter how many vitamins you take,
 how much Pilates,  you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
 doesn’t plug her heart 
into every live socket she passes, 
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
 the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb, 
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.

There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
 and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out 
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point 
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice. 
She looks up, down, at the mice.
 Then she eats the strawberry.

So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
 in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
 slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
 and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely. 
Oh taste how sweet and tart 
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Relax, from Like a Beggar, by Ellen Bass

5 thoughts on “Agree to Accept the Experience and Eat a Strawberry

  1. I just spent the day with relatives out in the everglades at a tourist trap. I stood in a line for over an hour being herded like cattle, slowly moving towards the airboat ride we had just paid $24 per person to ride. On the very loud airboat we were tossed around while sitting on hard metal benches. The ‘captain’ grounded the boat for most of the ride and had to struggle to push us off a sand bar. We were promised alligators, but got only one fleeting glance at one that quickly slipped away. After the airboat ride we were then herded into an enclosure where we watched a pathetic alligator show. It consisted of one man holding a gator’s mouth shut. I was uncomfortable, I was tired, I didn’t want to be there. But in the midst of it all, a bird slightly bigger than a large crow, with very long yellow legs, blue, red, and green feathers, came walking across the lily pads right up to our boat. I have never seen a bird like that before in my life. It was beautiful.

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