Sapphics Against Anger

Angered, may I be near a glass of water;
May my first impulse be to think of Silence,
Its deities (who are they? do, in fact, they
    Exist? etc.).


May I recall what Aristotle says of
The subject: to give vent to rage is not to
Release it but to be increasingly prone
    To its incursions.


May I imagine being in the Inferno,
Hearing it asked: “Virgilio mio, who’s
That sulking with Achilles there?” and hearing
    Virgil say: “Dante,


That fellow, at the slightest provocation,
Slammed phone receivers down, and waved his arms like
A madman. What Attila did to Europe,
    What Genghis Khan did


To Asia, that poor dope did to his marriage.”
May I, that is, put learning to good purpose,
Mindful that melancholy is a sin, though
    Stylish at present.


Better than rage is the post-dinner quiet,
The sink’s warm turbulence, the streaming platters,
The suds rehearsing down the drain in spirals
    In the last rinsing.


For what is, after all, the good life save that
Conducted thoughtfully, and what is passion
If not the holiest of powers, sustaining
      Only if mastered.


from Sapphics Against Anger and Other Poems, 1986