I think I can answer this:

Every morning I receive a poem from The Writers Almanac, every morning a gift for free – unbelievable, isn’t it?!

Reading today’s poem I was not sure whether to laugh or cry – actually I think this poem, and my response to it, can be taken as an epigram of what art & life is all about.

Questions

by Joseph Mills

On the Interstate, my daughter tells me
she only has two questions. I’m relieved
because she usually has two hundred.
I say, Okay, let’s have them, and she asks,
What was there before there was anything?
Stupidly, I think I can answer this:
There was grass, forests, fields, meadows, rivers.
She stops me. No, Daddy. I mean before
there was anything at all, what was there?
I say that I don’t know, so then she asks,
Where do we go when we die? I tell her
I don’t know the answer to this either.
She looks out the side, and I look forward,
then she asks if we can have some music.

“Questions” by Joseph Mills from The Miraculous Turning. © Press 53, 2014.


Joseph Mills has degrees in literature from the University of Chicago (B.A.), the University of New Mexico (M.A.), and the University of California-Davis (Ph.D).  As he was working on his third one, his mother asked, “Don’t you know that stuff yet?”


5 thoughts on “I think I can answer this:

  1. Indeed – how fortunate in the age where everything is commercialized, that we can receive such ‘gifts’. And as I say that, I feel a pang, since somewhere, someone is pouring his time and soul into words, for me to ‘have’ and ‘enjoy’ – yet he also has to eat in order to write some more. Always the dilemma with artists and the ‘value’ of their contribution to society, don’t you think?

    1. I understand your concerns, but my own experience is that these “gifts” makes me read more, buy more books, and maintain an on-going cultural discussion on art. I don’t think it is possible for any poet to make a living from “pure” poetry in a capitalist society, it’s a shame – but even so; sadly true.

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