(a poem by Diane Wakoski)

Now I know that you must depend on some things.                A sturdy scaffold,                a strong harness,                and your own sense of balancewhen you reach the high places.

Do not ever let anyone hold these things for you; do not assume that you will ever learn to look down with equanimity. Do not ask what others think, for they are not doing your job.

I wash the windows, they sparkle like the eyes of a snake.

I know challenges, even when they are not hissing under my foot.

Now I know that you must depend on some things and I also know what it is that you have to do strictly alone. All those years when I was confused and longed for company, I was not looking through the glittering glass, not knowing the satisfaction of singular accomplishments, that windows which are not cleaned on the 50th floor look particularly grim, the grime magnified by the height; I alone restore the beauty, the light. I am proud, pleased to do that alone.


Diane Wakoski was born in Whittier, California on August 3, 1937. She has published over 47 books of poetry and is one of the few contemporary American poets who have supported themselves solely through poetry. She gives frequent, "very artistic" poetry readings (sometimes as many as 50-80 a year), and "has helped create the new art of Performance Poetry." She has this to say about her work:

I started writing poetry feeling that, first of all, there was nothing I could say about my life that would be earthshakingly interesting. Secondly, the few interesting things in my life were so painful, embarassing, or shameful that I didn't want to talk about them...
Poetry is the art of saying what you mean but disguising it.

I've liked this poem ever since a friend showed it to me years ago. To me, it's a reminder that we ultimately have ourselves to depend on, and answer to. I find the message frightening at times, but in the end, empowering.

Poem from Diane Wakoski's Virtuoso literature for two and four hands, Doubleday, 1975. Biographical information from: http://members.aol.com/acamillez/DW/DWakoski_MAIN.html

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