Poetry Friday: When Life Gives You Spilled Milk, Make Yogurt…

This has been a week of up and downs.
The up — my proofs arrived, the last, last, last (oh, please God, please) LAST time I look at my wee manuscript before it goes off to market; the oven is not fixed, but replaced; a few packages from the States arrived, among them Justina Chen Headley’s newest book (sent all the way from Medina, Washington, with her hand-written note on her cute pink stationery because she is really sweet!); I figured out why I’ve been so tired (and the prescription for 322 mg. of iron twice a day is working on fixing that, though I am afraid that I will attract magnets), and the mint plant on my window has decided to live.

The downs have all been little niggling things that have to do with living in another country, the complete bewilderment of expectation that things feel like they should work the same, and be the same, because people speak English, and use decimal based currency. There are so many similarities between the places, but that just makes the differences stand out more and turns the little things from pieces of sand in my oyster to boulders…this week I’ve been bouncing from dealing with the postal strike; to filling out airbills and customs crud that all goes into shipping something from the US to the UK (I think I forgot to put a note to my editor in with my manuscript, after all the nonsense of filling out paperwork – !!!), dealing with the early darkness, still getting hopelessly lost, and having an email to our shipping company — which is now almost a month overdue in sending us our possessions — (including our winter clothes, people) bounce…

The week has been full of moments guaranteed to bring a need to lie down on the floor and howl, yet there’s really nothing to do about most of this aggravation but know that it’s not forever – tomorrow will come. This poem today suited me to a ‘t.’

The Pessimist

by Ben King

Nothing to do but work,
Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes
To keep one from going nude.

Nothing to breathe but air
Quick as a flash’t is gone;
Nowhere to fall but off,
Nowhere to stand but on.

Nothing to comb but hair,
Nowhere to sleep but in bed,
Nothing to weep but tears,
Nothing to bury but dead.

Nothing to sing but songs,
Ah well, alas! alack!
Nowhere to go but out,
Nowhere to come but back.

Nothing to see but sights,
Nothing to quench but thirst,
Nothing to have but what we’ve got;
Thus thro’ life we are cursed.

Nothing to strike but a gait;
Everything moves that goes.
Nothing at all but common sense
Can ever withstand these woes.

(Incidentally, things aren’t quite as bad as they appeared – the server is down or something at the shipping company, and they still answer the phone. But no clue why a shipment which was promised to take forty five days has now taken seventy-four…)Tomorrow is a place I can walk to, I think. Perhaps you can, too. Strike a gait, move along, put on your Annie dress and find other bits of inspirational poetry at Two Writing Teachers’ place. And if the Annie song is stuck in your head all day… (Heh heh) Sorry.

About the author

tanita s. davis is a writer and avid reader who prefers books to most things in the world, including people. That's ...pretty much it, she's very boring and she can't even tell jokes. She is, however, the author of nine books, including Serena Says, Partly Cloudy, Go Figure, Henri Weldon, and the Coretta Scott King honored Mare's War. Look for her new MG, The Science of Friendship in 1/2024 from Katherine Tegen Books.


  1. Great poem. It really says it. Sorry to hear about the downs. I lived in London for 3 years and got frustrated by these same kinds of things. When we moved back to the states, it took forever to get our stuff too, and then we were hit with customs on plain old household goods. We got tired of arguing and just paid. Sending you a big hug!! Take care.

  2. He certainly knows how to simplify things, doesn’t he? “Nowhere to stand but on.” That about sums it up when you’re faced with paperwork, customs, late shipments, etc, that you can’t control.

    Glad you have a new oven, though. And books, and mint and iron pills. And, as always, your sense of humor and your beautiful words to send to all your friends… who, BTW, are thinking good thoughts for you and very pushy thoughts for that bad, slow carrier.

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