living with mysteries…


Imperial Garden

by Billy Collins

It was at the end of dinner,

the two of us in a red booth

maintaining our silence,

when I decided to compose a message

for the fortune cookie you were soon to receive.

Avoid mulishness when choosing

a position on the great board game of life

was my mean-spirited contribution

to the treasury of Confucian wisdom.

But while we waited for the cookies,

the slices of oranges,

and the inescapable pot of watery tea,

I realized that by mulishness

I meant your refusal to let me

have my own way every time I wanted it.

I watched you looking off to the side—

your mass of dark hair,

your profile softened by lamplight—

and then I made up a fortune for myself.

He who acts like a jerk

on an island of his own creation

will have only the horizon for a friend.

I seemed to be getting worse at this,

I thought, as the cookies arrived at the table

along with the orange slices

and a teapot painted with tigers

menacingly peering out from the undergrowth.

The restaurant was quiet then.

The waiter returned to looking out at the street,

a zither whimpered in the background,

and we turned to our cookies,

cracking the brittle shells

then rolling into little balls

the tiny scrolls of our destinies

before dropping them, unread, into our cups of tea—

a little good-luck thing we’d been doing ever since we met.
Billy Collins, “Imperial Garden” from Whale Day and Other Poems published by Random House. © 2020 Billy Collins. Used with permission of the Chris Calhoun Agency.

Living with mystery means sometimes I have to look inside for the answer.

move to a different drum

give time to discern a decision

hold to the circle of solidarity

Jeanne 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: