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“Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?"

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave
your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It's all right to carry a notebook but a cheap
one is best, with pages the color of weak tea
and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

Avoid any enclosed space where more than
three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware
any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks
across the muffled tennis courts.

Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.
And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle
where a child a year or two old is playing as his
mother browses the ranks of the dead.

Often he will pull books from the bottom shelf.
The title, the author's name, the brooding photo
on the flap mean nothing. Red book on black, gray
book on brown, he builds a tower. And the higher
it gets, the wider he grins.

You who asked for advice, listen: When the tower
falls, be like that child. Laugh so loud everybody
in the world frowns and says, "Shhhh."

Then start again.

—Ron Koertge

from Fever, 2006
Red Hen Press

Copyright 2006 by Red Hen Press.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press. Copyright 2006 by Ron Koertge. For further permission information, contact Andrea Scarpino, Box 3537, Granada Hlls, CA 91394, phone 818-831-0694, fax 818-831-6659, http://www.redhen.org.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Ronald Koertge (1940- ) is the author of six poetry collections, including And Through the Woods (World Parade Books, 2008). Koertge grew up in rural Olney, Illinois, and received a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from the University of Arizona.

Learn more about Ron Koertge at The Poetry Foundation.