A mother or a father might expend their lives
on raising children, who might then show gratitude
or not – or even harm the ones who nurtured them.
A woman might spend years upon a spouse
and have him leave her for another and
an artist might have labored long on work –
with little recompense or naught – and then
awake one day to find it stolen or
to find that punishment is his reward.
And what recourse have they, who face such things, except
to turn, when reason fails, to that philosophy
that others past had turned to, in their own defeats?
We labor hard and fail, and that’s defeat.
We rise from where we fell, to try yet more
and then succeed – or not. And this, we know,
is hard enough, but when accomplishment,
for which we’ve paid with years of labor, is
appropriated, scorned, destroyed – what then?
It’s then we're tested, like the metal in the fire,
that’s heated till it glows, incandescent,
and yet retains, awhile, its own integrity.
The Buddhists and the Stoics have advised
that victory and defeat, like pleasure, pain,
are waves upon a sea whose depths are still –
and so should be acknowledged and observed
with tranquil eyes that see their transience
and that of the chimera called "the self".
The ones we love – they suffer and they die, before
or after we have left – and though we ache at this,
this knowledge may be used to act in gentleness.