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The trick is that you're willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you're doing them a favor.

The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.

The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.

The trick is that you're providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.

The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.

The rule is to make them feel they've come too late.
The trick is that you're willing to make exceptions.

The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.

And when they say "too much,"
give them a plan.

And when they say "anger" or "rage" or "love,"
say "give me an example."

The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.

The rule is you don't care if they ever find it.
The trick is that they feel they can.

More by Khaled Mattawa


Will answers be found
like seeds
planted among rows of song?

Will mouths recognize
the hunger
in their voices, all mouths in unison,

the ah in harmony, the way words
of hope are more
than truth when whispered?

Will we turn to each other and ask,
how long
has it long since?

A world now, a world then
and each
is seeking a foothold, trying

to remember when we looked
at one another
and found—A world again—Surely

what we long for is at the wheel 

Surely, we'll soon hear 
its unearthly groan.


Yardley, Pennsylvania, an expensive dump
and the van seats shake their broken bones.

Duty-free liquor and cigarettes,
the refineries and the harbor's cranes.

The moon digs its way out of the dirt.
The branches of an evergreen sway.

She's nice
the woman you don't love.

She kisses you hard and often
holding your face in her big hands.

Tocqueville [excerpt]

Dear B:

To say all the new thinking resembles all the old thinking is to say the fork in the road where one stood indecisive was not a crossroad at all, because one has not moved. Rather it's the earth that has lurched under us like a moving sidewalk in an airport, some passengers standing, others rushing past, the bleep-bleep of the golf carts joyriding the elderly to one of their final destinations. Or when the airliner or the train next to yours moves and you think you've moved. This is not to say that it is only a matter of perception, but that the classics do not console enough. Or maybe that they console too much. You talk about Brutus's purple mantle, and Anthony's decision to behead the poor soul who stole it. If you don't think it's about consolation then why revert back to that code? And Horace's farm, a gift from a patron who loved his poetry, or merely loved the idea of befriending a poet and patronizing him. You'd only have to watch TV to see traces of that, "the artist" surrounded by his entourage, the affluence factor a tax deduction, the drugs an entertainment expense, a hedge fund exec with a salary (payment made in salt) of five hundred million dollars, the acreage outside his mansion the size of modern day Carthage. You only have to see the present to realize how false the past can be. Again, Horace's farm, his free-range cows feeding on acorns. Acorns! and the spring was mere superstition, or nostalgia steeped in superstition, and the cows an easy romanticism. But what of the air that feeds the thinking? This country will consume forty five million metric tons of beef, thirty two million of pork. Maybe you're thinking of Ulysses now, doing a cameo as a swineherd a few miles downwind from you where the levels of sulfur in the nearby springs are three thousand times what is humanly tolerable. To wish upon dying a happy man having lived in virtue and having died, if need be, holding fast to, or because of holding fast, to one's conviction...Virtue, (antonym: vice, impurity). Something in me says "Fortune" instead, which is another way of saying "Fat Chance," which is to say, each particular just about erases the luminous clarity of a general ideal.

Related Poems

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.