I. TOGETHER OR ALONE
We take our breaths
Together or alone
Just two breaths
betray the difference
I step, you step
we practice our sidesteps
to avoid brushing arms
to avert linking eyes
to divert our attractions
I speak, you speak
we whisper cheek-to-cheek
you hold harmless myths
I claim to know truths
we agree to not disagree
I wish, you wish
we wish upon the clouds
to sweep away the shroud
that hides the last clue
the brass locket of life
I fall, you fall
we both reach for a hand
we both hope it is strong
Is the hand really out there
or does our empty grasp
imply the bleak answer
I pass, you pass
together or alone
my breath, your breath
private untold tales
at very last
Your heaviness weighs on me
Your mountain soul has edges for ledges
Your mean terrain offers no hope of rescue
How did I get stuck here, how did I luck out here?
Then! from your grim granite face emerges a bear
Its dull-eyed stupor only heightens my panic
Blank rocks, blank bear, blank fear
My escape paths turn to crusty shale
Advance or retreat, defeat
A step falters…
III. HÉDIARD, PL. DE LA MADELEINE
IV. AESOP’S TED TALK
Hello, my hipster listeners!
How best may I address you?
Cunning foxes? Steadfast turtles? Timid mice?
No, among the many creatures whose personae I devised,
I would say you, my TED audience, are… Ants!
Yes, industrious, entrepreneurial Ants!
A bit self-righteous, according to fable,
and sometimes sharp of tongue
(we know that Ants have one!)
but otherwise you comprise one of the finer families
of the Animal Kingdom!
Now that I have sufficiently flattered you,
stroked your antennae, so to speak,
I was invited here to recite one of my best-known tales…
You’ll like it, as Ants have a prominent role therein.
But mmmm… now that the lights have dimmed,
I believe I see some Grasshoppers amongst you.
Which is fine, there’s a lesson here for everyone.
So let’s jump in, with all sixes!
Ants were taught their ways in Ancient times…
to gather the Goods that befell them,
to preserve their gains and consume them judiciously.
Ants were also bestowed with powerful jaws
to give them an edge in Matters of Law!
Thus Ants were granted a smooth climb to the Top!
So it seems to me, your friend, Aesop.
Now I myself have had a small taste
of what it is like to be an Ant:
Like most of you attending this talk,
I worked many Summers (when others did not)
to collect enough grain from the rugged terrain
to nearly fill my own cavernous cellars!
Not to share with others but to demonstrate
my stupendous talent to accumulate.
(Oh sure, I ate a few! Wouldn’t you?)
One day, a Grasshopper showed up at my door.
I originally wrote, Lazy Grasshopper, but!
Blanket statements about personal industry
would not endear me to this diverse audience.
Your friend Aesop considers himself lucky
that TED would even allow a worn-out fabulist like me
to address you, illustrious Ants!
…and assorted Grasshoppers.
That said, let’s return to the tale,
as I’m running short of both time and esteem!
As I was about to say…
One day a Grasshopper came to my door.
(Not visibly lazy – more forlorn.)
The Grasshopper had spent all her Summer singing
but, though her legs were long, nimble and bare,
she was not the Taylor Swift of the Grasshopper clan
and by Fall she was hungry and near penniless.
Ms. Grasshopper had heard of my ancient fame
and the modest wealth that I had attained
so hence she hopped, to find your friend, Aesop,
and possibly get some advice
if not sustenance.
While I was pleased to receive a visitor,
especially one so down with my renown,
it was clear that Ms. Grasshopper wanted more
than a tête-à-tête with an old tale-teller.
Nonetheless I invited her to take a seat
Which she took, awkwardly.
Ms. Grasshopper didn’t want to sing anymore,
she confessed, her long barbed legs extending
well beyond the modest cushions of my banquette,
ready to jump, it seemed, at any sign of threat.
Her day-to-day struggle, she struggled to say,
was finding a way to be both Grasshopper and Ant
– performing and thriving –
when traditionalists like me stood in her way,
having insisted one can’t.
What is so sinful about music and dance
being one’s great purpose in life! she cried.
If I were, say, in the ballet,
You would be not so dismissive! she ventured.
Ants would have pleasure and I would be treasured!
Hmmm! I said aloud, as I considered how she
might have soared gracefully in venues
like the one in which I now address you!
Were her ambitions all that different from mine?
My lectern more hallow than her chorus line?
It was time for Aesop to resolve this dilemma…
Should I do what The Ant did so long ago:
Insult the poor Grasshopper and tell her to go!
Or should I act in a more enlightened way
more befitting how things are done today
and set aside my time-honored Moral?
Suprisingly, it turned out to be
Ms. Grasshopper who enlightened me.
She would share not just my dinner
but, as it turned out, her whole life with me!
She is in the audience now, in fact,
and I would point her out, but if I did
my own eminence would surely be eclipsed,
which your vain friend Aesop could not endure,
a traditionalist to the bone in that respect.
So the moral of this story, dear Ants,
is that it takes a hard shell
to protect you from Love.
Thank you for listening, TED friends.
Good night, and rhyme well.