Avoid Adapting Other People's Negative Views

                          after Epictetus

To gaze upon the fatal
without commiserating gloom:
what every friend should be—
not one who rends her coat of doom
nor one who lets her ankle rankle
nor her dogged love to the hounds.          
Be the cat in catastrophe
who survives eight more dives.
Though in the clutch of damage
a dame must age,
in the crazy-quilt of guilt
it was never your fault.
In the company of morose
always pull out the rose.

Copyright © 2013 by Sharon Dolin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 6, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

"'Avoid Adapting Other People's Negative Views' is one of the final poems in a 24-poem series entitled A Manual for Living, based on the Stoic philosopher Epictetus's posthumous self-help guide of the same name. The title is taken from Sharon Lebell's contemporary demotic translation. This particular poem exhibits a magical faith in language, drawing on the word game I used to play as a child of making words out of the letters of other words. By peering in and listening carefully enough to the constituent letters of words, other words arise, which this poem uses as clues for how to live."
—Sharon Dolin