Sometimes an urge takes hold of us and pulls us onto the dance floor
even though we only want to sip our drink and observe.
I don’t mean one of those sudden, fleeting urges
like peeing off the back of the boat
or kissing the girl you’ve been stammering before
under a porch light that is being pecked by moths,
but an urge that leads to a life no one saw coming;
like leaving your comfortable Midwest life and moving to the coast
to work as a deckhand on a lobster boat
or selling your golf clubs and moving to Key West to perform card tricks
on Mallory Square as tourists gather to applaud the setting sun.
That’s the kind of urge I mean; not the kind when given a Norwegian sweater
and suddenly you’re listening to the Peer Gynt suites and sipping
from a coffee mug with Munch’s Scream printed on the side,
because eventually, your girlfriend will buy you a pair of cowboy boots.
Did I once stand at such a crossroads?
Did I scrub the wrong deck or kiss the wrong girl?
On more than one occasion, sitting in my car in an office park
before a job interview, something in my stomach told me
to drive away, drive, drive away
and I did,
and I do, taking great pleasure in the subtle inertia
of shifting gears.
Being a child of the seventies
I have what some consider
an irrational fear of being crushed
by a falling anvil or grand piano
or running along and realizing
that there is no ground beneath me.
Of all the people on this pier ––
the salted and the salty, the sober
and the sloshed, the old salts
with stories to tell, and the tourists
leaning over the rail
scanning the shallow water
pointing excitedly to a grocery bag
floating as a jellyfish ––
a seven-year-old local girl
who has been carving
chunks of flesh
from the side of a mullet
to be used as bait reels in a remora.
Without even saying Watch this!
she sticks it to a light post
for all to gape at.
Sunburnt fathers in flip-flops
snap pictures as she goes about
rebaiting her hook.
HOW TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE
I got about halfway through How Dante Can Save Your Life
and found myself wondering when the great poet would extend his hand.
Then I turned to How Proust Can Change Your Life
and began remembering the torments of prurience, jealousy and betrayal.
I started How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Change Your Life and returned to Proust
and memories of pacing my room with receiver in hand begging her to pick up.
How Beans Can Change Your Life is about nearly nothing at all
yet taught me more about the intestines than I ever wanted to know.
With its clichéd cover of a halved peach, How Sex Can Change Your Life
left me lonely, unsatisfied, and nonplussed that the potent Freud is mentioned only once.
How Rejection Can Change Your Life for the Better advises us to shrug off
the aura of self-pity and call our mothers.
How Handwriting Can Change Your Life insists that P is the letter of self-lovability,
yet I still cannot link it with others in the alphabet.
How to Change Your Life by Doing Absolutely Nothing does not even need to be read.
After reading How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life, I went back
to writing poems on grains of rice.
Since none sold, I picked up Miracles: What They Are and How They Can Change Your Life
and straightaway flipped to the index to look for my name.
The first chapter of How Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life is titled “What, Me, Worry?”
after Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman and his gap-toothed grin.
I put it back in exchange for How Thinking Like a Kid Can Change Your Life.
It hasn’t, so I devoured How Transforming Your Anger Style Can Change Your Life
and began to utilize the punching bag that hangs like a uvula in the corner of my garage.
Why are there no books titled How Committing Murder Can Change Your Life
or How Falling in Love with an Exotic Dancer Can Change Your Life?
I plan to someday write How Burying St. Joseph in Your Yard Can Change Your Life
if ever an offer is made.
I opened, somewhat apprehensively, How Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life
and my heartburn flared up.
How Barefoot Walking Can Change Your Life doesn’t. Unless you have bunions.
How a Pet Can Change Your Life is not helpful because there is no mention
of Siamese fighting fish or Burmese pythons.
How Gymnastics Can Change Your Life is by winning five gold medals.
How Jump Roping Can Change Your Life won’t unless you’ve learned all the rhymes.
I have decided to write my own and call it How Changing Your Life Can Change Your Life
but the thesis keeps changing.
I would be remiss not to mention Rilke’s legendary imperative,
“You must change your life.”
But it’s the preceding line, “from here there is no place that does not see you”
that haunts me still and haunts me still.
Norman Minnick’s collections of poetry are To Taste the Water (winner of the First Series Award from Mid-List Press) and Folly (Wind Publications). He is the editor of Between Water and Song: New Poets for the Twenty-First Century (White Pine Press) and Work Toward Knowing: Beginning with Blake (Kinchafoonee Creek Press). His poetry and essays have appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle, World Literature Today, The Georgia Review, Poetry International, and The Columbia Review. For more information, visit www.buzzminnick.com. or firstname.lastname@example.org