“Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard”

A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;

The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small —
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn’t
be so hard.

(Excerpted from: Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard, from The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, Copyright © 2005 by Kay Ryan.)

Hopefully that is enough to tempt you to read the whole poem in The New York Times, and perhaps their profile of our nation’s new 16th Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress. Kay is a poet with a compelling personal history. She is a California poet compared to Emily Dickenson, was born where I grew up (interesting trivia at least to me), has never taken a creative writing class, and in a 2004 interview in The Christian Science Monitor, she said, “I have tried to live very quietly, so I could be happy.” Until now, Kay has been the outsider, shunned by her peers yet managing to persevere and maintain a dry sense of humor reflected in her work. I don’t think she has the same beautiful voice and hypnotic reading style as her better known predecessor Billy Collins, or the stark emotion and notoriety of Louise Glück, but I’m happy she was selected for the job because of her approachable style. The position certainly will not allow her to live very quietly, and at $35,000/year it certainly isn’t much more than she must have been making as an English teacher so it makes one wonder if it will make her very happy. It will, as the above poem states, leave deep tracks. And as is usual for many of us, in the end I’m sure those tracks are not at all what she would have expected.