Here’s what you need to do, since time began: find something — diamond-rare or carbon-cheap, it’s all the same — and love it all you can.

It should be something close — a field, a man, a line of verse, a mouth, a child asleep — that feels like the world’s heart since time began.

Don’t measure much or lay things out or scan; don’t save yourself for later, you won’t keep; spend yourself now on loving all you can.

It’s going to hurt. That was the risk you ran with your first breath; you knew the price was steep, that loss is what there is, since time began

subtracting from your balance. That’s the plan, too late to quibble now, you’re in too deep. Just love what you still have, while you still can. Don’t count on schemes, it’s far too short a span from the first sowing till they come to reap. One way alone to count, since time began: love something, love it hard, now, while you can.

Rhina P. Espaillat was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932 and taught high school English in New York City for many years. A master of formal verse, she is the author of numerous collections of poetry in both English and Spanish and the recipient of many awards, including the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Richard Wilbur Award. “Guidelines” is from Her Place in These Designs, published by Truman State University Press, and is reprinted with permission. Author photo by Kurt Richter.

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Comments

nan shartel July 30, 2010 @ 1:40 a.m.

i just love this...what a wise woman...she tells it straight and tells it well..Kudos Rhina

and look at that well worn beautiful face...nice

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nan shartel July 30, 2010 @ 1:41 a.m.

can we have one of her Spanish verses please?

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nan shartel July 30, 2010 @ 1:44 a.m.

here's another


Bilingual/Bilingüe

My father liked them separate, one there one here (allá y aquí), as if aware

that words might cut in two his daughter's heart (el corazón) and lock the alien part

to what he was--his memory, his name (su nombre)--with a key he could not claim.

"English outside this door, Spanish inside," he said, "y basta." But who can divide

the world, the word (mundo y palabra) from any child? I knew how to be dumb

and stubborn (testaruda); late, in bed, I hoarded secret syllables I read

until my tongue (mi lengua) learned to run where his stumbled. And still the heart was one.

I like to think he knew that, even when, proud (orgulloso) of his daugher's pen,

he stood outside mis versos, half in fear of words he loved but wanted not to hear.

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skipcarufel Sept. 9, 2010 @ 8:40 p.m.

Bravas! More, please, from both of you. A shame that people don't know these truths intuitively. That they have to be told.

Rhina: "It should be something close — a field, a man, a line of verse, a mouth, a child asleep — that feels like the world’s heart since time began." How simple and obvious. How irrefutably true. Yet, so unfortunately missed.

And nan: "And still the heart was one." How simple and obvious. How irrefutably true. Yet, so unfortunately missed. Your beautiful poem exposes the regrets of reality.

Life's lessons in poetry are verse as good as it gets.

Thank you both.

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nan shartel Sept. 19, 2010 @ 4:54 p.m.

Skip great thx but i didn't write "Bilingual"...Rhina P. Espaillat did...would that i could write a poem like that!!!

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