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On Goodness

Thinking recently and frequently

about views of karma,

like the universe

somehow knows who does good,

and who does not.

But that's such a crock

to placate what we are doing

when we think we are good

but are selfishly focused

on our own improvement

as if there's some reward for that.

As if our goodness

will be a signal the universe gets

that will help others

and take care of messes

that we stay out of.

Yes take care of yourself

but to the extent that means

preservation, protection -

you're number one we're told -

you can't help anyone

if you're a wreck --

but maybe somewhere we got that wrong

because it keeps us

by this above all else

maintaining our own peace

from helping others

and not risking a g-damn thing --

and simply expecting the universe

to assess who's been good or bad

like Santa Claus in a song.

it's ultimately a theocratic mindset

of being good

so good

on an individual level

(and preserving that individual unit -

oh what separate lives we do lead)

that goodness will change the world.


we are all complicit

when we act "good"

instead of reaching out

with all our messiness

to help --

somehow we think

"Ah, yes - I am good

I am keeping myself on track;

this goodness will help the world."

What bullshit.

The world needs you now

no matter what

The person asking for help

might throw off your equilibrium

heaven forbid

mess with your peace.

You might make a difference

which might be

better than good.

It will certainly do more

than all your

very responsible recycling

and however you cast your vote.

And as bad things happen

and we all continue to be so good

I cracked open a can of beer

had a few slices of cheese

vented a weird set of phrases out


while suspended above a tiger

hanging on a thread of a vine...

Because you see --

I'm a climber

I went to the edge

and got stuck --

but the vine can go --

the rocks will hold me

or gravity will be true.

Those who wanted to maintain their calm

and be good in that bounded sense

would not have followed me here

but I'll get myself out

anyway I like to ensconce myself

and I'm good in small spaces

on rocky walls

and there's still time

for a little cheese

and some beer.

Do you believe me?

I am not any better

than anyone else --

I am not very good,


I am not good at all,

in fact.

But goddammit

I hope I will make a difference.


Thoughts of randomness spurred to life from this. 


by Ellen Bass

Bad things are going to happen.

Your tomatoes will grow a fungus

and your cat will get run over.

Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream

melting in the car and throw

your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.

Your husband will sleep

with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling

out of her blouse. Or your wife

will remember she’s a lesbian

and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat—

the one you never really liked—will contract a disease

that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth

every four hours. Your parents will die.

No matter how many vitamins you take,

how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,

your hair and your memory. If your daughter

doesn’t plug her heart

into every live socket she passes,

you’ll come home to find your son has emptied

the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,

and called the used appliance store for a pick up—drug money.

There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.

When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine

and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.

And two mice—one white, one black—scurry out

and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point

she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.

She looks up, down, at the mice.

Then she eats the strawberry.

So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse

in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,

slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel

and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.

Oh taste how sweet and tart

the red juice is, how the tiny seeds

crunch between your teeth.

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