Barry Spacks



Say you have an enemy,

could be just some notion full of woe,

maybe no more than a passing thought

thwacks an arrow toward your heart.


Okay. You'll suffer from this arrow;

it meant you harm, now fallen at your feet.

So what do you do? Confess:

here's what most of us mostly do,


we stoop, take up the spent arrow,

and plunge it again into the wound,                 

improving, extending a hurt

become a cherished possession.


This is known as "the second arrow."

The first we might see as life itself

with all its joys and miseries;

the second . . . a chosen affliction.


So much has been kind to me . . .

so many . . . I couldn't see it once

but see it now. This is called

"refusing the second arrow."


Socrates, Aristotle taught us to cherish

in days before all "data sets"—

the "sapiens" in our species-name,

the best of us, the smartest.


Praise to those who know and know,

in their labs, in the fields, at their lectures striving

to pass it on, move it along:

Devotion's their word, passionate labor's


meticulous exactitude.

O Wisdom-Ones, good on you!

As my singer-hero Tom Waits rasps it:

            "Everybody row!"                   


Barry Spacks has published several novels and stories, three poetry CDs, and ten poetry collections while teaching literature and writing for years at M.I.T. & U.C. Santa Barbara. His most recent book of poems, Food for the Journey, appeared from Cherry Grove in August 2008.



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