James Richardson

Twenty-Five Aphorisms

The road reaches every place, the short cut only one.
Those who demand consideration for their sacrifices were making investments, not sacrifices.
What you give to a thief is stolen.
Despair says I cannot lift that weight. Happiness says, I do not have to.
You’ve never said anything as stupid as what people thought you said.
Our avocations bring us the purest joys. Praise my salads or my softball, and I am
deified for a day. But tell me I am a great teacher or a great writer and you force me to
tell myself the truth.
Ah, what can fill the heart? But then, what can’t?
Shadows are harshest when there is only one lamp.
Desire’s most seductive promise is not pleasure but change, not that you might
possess your object but that you might become the one who belongs with it.
I say nothing works any more, but I get up and it’s tomorrow.
A beginning ends what an end begins.
I walk up the drive for the morning paper and find myself musing, as if the news were
fiction, Marvelous that they think of all this, so deadpan strange. Nothing
is so improbable as the truth. If the day’s headlines hadn’t already happened, they
would not happen.
Gravity’s reciprocal: the planet rises to the sparrow’s landing.
When a jet flies low overhead, every glass in the cupboard sings. Feelings are like that:
choral, not single; mixed, never pure. The sentimentalist may want to deny the sadness
or boredom in his happiness, or the freedom that lightens even the worst loss. The
moralist will resist his faint complicity. The sophisticate, dreading to be found naive,
will exclaim upon the traces of vanity or lust in any motive, as if they were the whole.
Each is selling himself simplicity; each is weakened with his fear of weakness.
Road: what the man of two minds travels between them.
The cynic suffers the form of faith without its love. Incredulity is his piety.
Pessimists live in fear of their hope, optimists in fear of their fear.
Writer: how books read each other.
Some people live in a continual state of skepticism and annoyance that they cultivate as
a kind of worldly wisdom and are always recruiting for. Let the sun come up and they
will roll their eyes, Wouldn’t you know it? Profess to be content and they
will be disappointed that you have sold your soul for trifles. They wait, hurt and
righteous, for the world to prove it really loves them.
If the couple could see themselves twenty years later, they might not recognize their
love, but they would recognize their argument.
Each lock makes two prisons.
Painting high on the house. Yellowjackets swarmed around me. I couldn’t convince
them I was harmless, so I had to kill them.
All stones are broken stones.
Of all the ways to avoid living, perfect discipline is the most admired.
Why would we write if we’d already heard what we wanted to hear?

James Richarson
These 25 aphorisms are from Interglacial: New and Selected Poems and Aphorisms (Ausable Press, 2004).