It’s not true, what they say.

God often gives you more
than you can handle, then
stands back and observes as

you adapt.  Or perish,
like the infinite others who were
given more than they could handle and
are no longer here to say so.

God is not cruel, just curious,
like a researcher whose interest in mice
extends outward to their tolerance, but
not inward to their small mice spirits

calling in the dark, and then
the light, and then the dark,
beneath the shock of electricity
they have not learned to avoid or

near the cheese they have
longed to find in the labyrinth
of their inescapable lives.

Response is the thing.
Despair or rejoice. Squirm or dance.
Declare the world’s beauty, or
curse its brutality.
Equivocate. Alternate. Decide again.

God wants only to sum your choices, to tally
your life beside the endless others:

Do you sink, this moment? Rise?
Or abide, eventually, in the
attenuating in-between:
a dim, dislocated shadow
of the life you dreamed when
you unfolded perfect fingers
in your mother’s patient womb?

You choose.

God notes the point where
tolerance is exceeded, where
“too much” delimits your
particular vulnerability:

The lost love,
the dead child;
the decaying parent.
The helpless flutter of
the butterfly’s remaining wing.

Waiting to see what you do
at that moment.
What you have learned.

So laugh, and die well every day.
Not like Narcissus, enamored
of your own brief beauty, having looked
no further all your life. Nor Jocasta,
given to your own vast despair
as if it mattered.

But like Li Po, drunk on
wine and wisdom, and happy,
his poet’s body creasing the cool
dark water without a sound,
his lungs filling and filling with
fluid mystery after he reached
to embrace the moon’s reflection
and fell from the boat he knew better than to trust.

Make God smile.




Tolerance first appeared here in April 2018.



  1. Wonderful. And what shall be next?


    1. The perpetual question. Thanks, Steph!


  2. Thank you.


    1. My pleasure, Sister.


  3. Absolutely profound, and touches on those questions I’ve never been able to resolve myself . . .


    1. Thanks, Leah.


  4. I loved this the first time around. It seems even more timely now.


    1. Thanks, Bob. I wish it didn’t seem timely quite so often ….


  5. Another great poem.


    1. Thank you!


  6. Interesting poem to read after being waaay too close to a mass shooting a few days ago. I continue to seek inwardly for my best response. I have always felt every life challenge is strength training to meet a coming challenge.
    “Response is the thing.
    Despair or rejoice. Squirm or dance.
    Declare the world’s beauty, or
    curse its brutality.
    Equivocate. Alternate. Decide again.”
    Thank you … I am equivocating … with the help of Cate(ing) wisdom

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your view of every challenge being strength training to meet the next is wise, as the next shall certainly come. Thanks for sharing a little Jazz wisdom in return; we need all we can get.

      Liked by 3 people

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