Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Poem for the Day

Here's a poem that I've come to hold as a personal explanation of the quest for self-actualization (okay, actually it's really about making us perfectionists embrace our imperfections as actually shaping who we are instead of holding us back from being who we think we should be):

Pear Like a Potato
By John Updike

Was it worms, having once bitten
and then wilted away, or some canker
known only to nurserymen? Whatever the reason, the pear
fresh-plucked from the tree where it leans and struggles
in the garden’s dappled corner, is
a heavy dwarf-head whose faceless face
puckers and frowns around a multitude of old problems, its
furrowed brow and evil squint and pursy mouth
and pinched-in reptilian ear rescrambling,
feature for feature, as I rotate
this weight in my hand, this
friendly knot of fruitflesh, this
pear like a potato.

It wanted to grow, and it did. It
had a shape in mind, and if that shape in transit
was waylaid by scars, by cells
too mean to join in, leaving dents between bulges
like quilt-buttons, well, it kept on going
anyway. Our brains
are like this, no doubt, having swelled
in spite of traumas, of languages
we never learned, of grudges never set aside but grown around,
like parasites that died but forever snapped
the rhythm whereby cell links up to cell.
Plato’s was a manner of speaking;
perfection’s an idea that body and soul
make a run at. Falling short, they fill this world instead
with the lopsided jumble that is: the congregation
of the failed yet not uncheerful,
like this poor pear.

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