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For Violet, on Your Third Birthday

Posted on: 4/2/2011

If I can teach you anything of value,
Teach you anything that’s meaningful
To me, as well as to this crazy world,
It is to recognize the beauty that
Surrounds us all in everything we do.
Yes, even in the ugly acts, the strange,
Absurd, and contradicting acts, the acts
That do us harm when what we meant was good,
We still reveal our complex natures, still
Reveal our malleable human gorgeousness.

In our hearts we are complex; we are
All inconsistent, self-destructive, all
Erratic, and we often scoff at this
Behavior, thinking it beneath us, though
It is in fact a fundamental part
Of our humanity itself. We are
Chameleons on a multi-colored bush.
We’re dogs that chase our tails, then bark and snap
At shadows on the wall. We’re hypocrites,
But I love us all, and you should too. (I know
It’s hard to do, and sometimes seems a waste
Of time, and sometimes is a dumb and even
Counterproductive effort, but that’s just
My point exactly.) And you’ll see this all
Around you once you start to look. For one
Example, you should visit Venice, great
And gorgeous Venice, which I call the heart
Of all the world. Once I stood inside
A cold Venetian church and was amazed
To find two shining marble-sculpted odes,
To Venus and to Jesus, which have been
Beside each other for some centuries.
The scene still speaks to me: The world of love
Is big, with room enough for all of us
And all our contradictions. Why, the whole
Amazing city—it’s as fine a place
You’ll find on Earth—is built upon a swamp
(Laguna, so they say); forever floods
Push past its water-street canals; the brine
Seeps deep within this priceless palace, then
To that one, on and on. Ridiculous,
But perfect. Human nature in a nutshell.