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.
From Tocqueville by Khaled Mattawa. Copyright © 2010 by Khaled Mattawa. Used by permission of New Issues Press.
Born in Benghazi, Libya, in 1964, Khaled Mattawa is a poet and translator of contemporary Arabic poetry. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2014 to 2020.
Date Published: 2010-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/ecclesiastes