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.