Quatrains for a Calling

By Peter Cole b. 1957 Peter Cole
Why are you here?
Who have you come for
and what would you gain?
Where is your fear?

Why are you here?

You’ve come so near,
or so it would seem;
you can see the grain
in the paper — that’s clear.

But why are you here

when you could be elsewhere,
earning a living
or actually learning?
Why should we care

why you’re here?

Is that a tear?
Yes, there’s pressure
behind the eyes —
and there are peers.

But why are you here?

At times it sears.
The pressure and shame
and the echoing pain.
What do you hear

now that you’re here?

The air’s so severe.
It calls for equipment,
which comes at a price.
And you’ve volunteered.

Why? Are you here?

What will you wear?
What will you do
if it turns out you’ve failed?
How will you fare?

Why are you here

when it could take years
to find out — what?
It’s all so slippery,
and may not cohere.

And yet, you’re here    ...

Is it what you revere?

How deep does that go?
How do you know?
Do you think you’re a seer?

Is that why you’re here?

Do you have a good ear?
For praise or for verse?
Can you handle a curse?
Define persevere.

Why are you here?

It could be a career.

Source: Poetry (May 2013).

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2013
 Peter  Cole

Biography

Poet and translator Peter Cole was born in Paterson, New Jersey. His collections of poetry include Hymns & Qualms (1998), Rift (1989), What Is Doubled: Poems 1981-1998 (2005), and Things on Which I’ve Stumbled (2008). With Adina Hoffman, he wrote the nonfiction collection Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (2011). Described by Harold Bloom as a “major poet-translator,” Cole has translated important . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Jobs & Working

Poetic Terms Quatrain, Refrain, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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