By Rob Carney

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Old Roads, New Stories: A Literary Series

If you’ve forgotten this, you’re not alone. I’m a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University, and it took getting Resolute, the alumni magazine, in the mail to be reminded: this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

In honor of that, I feel like nailing my own 95 Theses to the door, so to speak—half now and half later. And hopefully during the interval you’ll fill up the comment box below with some of your own quotes, dissenting insights, and challenges to the challenge-worthy:

  1. Our language is a language not a lug nut,
  2. and you’re a thinking human being not a wrench.
  3. Earth’s the right place for love: / I don’t know where it’s likely to go better (Robert Frost).
  4. I, too, sing America (Langston Hughes).
  5. I speak the password primeval, I give the sign of democracy, / By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms (Walt Whitman).
  6. I, too, am America (Langston Hughes).
  7. I know what it is to be in love, / and no one has the right to disapprove / of who I love. They might, but they’d be wrong.
  8. What else? Our lives are loaned to us. Not long. / And not to pile up money. Not for power. / And how we pay that loan back does matter: / With interest, yes—with being interested.
  9. Bears belong to the mountains, not to us.
  10. And lakes belong to the mountains, not to us.
  11. The full moon silhouettes the mountains first, / and when bears bend down to drink, they drink its light.
  12. Forests are the mountains children, / so we’d better write good stories for our shelves, / stories that last as long as trees last, that grow / in widening circles.
  13. Deer may take from our gardens.
  14. We get back magic in return: / a small amazement, illusion of floating, / a sudden now-you-see-’em, now-you-don’t.
  15. Sex at the top of a mountain makes a boy; / at night, on the lakeshore, a girl.
  16. We can’t ignore what’s happening.
  17. Feeling’s not a choice. It’s everyone’s job.
  18. In that hour before daybreak, even a city might concentrate, / might quiet itself awhile / and sense an older, deeper pulse.
  19. A world of made / is not a world of born (E. E. Cummings).
  20. That’s policy for you. Policy is what the kingpins want (John Updike).
  21. corruption / Never has been compulsory (Robinson Jeffers).
  22. When the cities lie at the monster’s feet there are left the mountains (Robinson Jeffers).
  23. I do not say these things for a dollar or to fill up the time while I wait for a boat (Walt Whitman).
  24. But habit is a great deadener (Samuel Beckett).
  25. It’s the start that’s difficult. / You can start from anything. / Yes, but you have to decide (Samuel Beckett).
  26. Anything can be a key: a piece of wire, / a safety pin, laughter (Richard Garcia).
  27. We are young despite the years / We are concern, we are hope despite the times (R.E.M.).
  28. For fingers came first, before grubbing after money, / and our fingers speak the language of Guitar.
  29. no one’s impressed by caution, / or sprawls on the couch reading books about it.
  30. It only looks like leaving to someone standing still.
  31. Since Life is our sister, / Death is our sister. / All we can do, like salmon, / is know the ocean before returning home.
  32. Throb, baffled and curious brain! Throw our questions and answers! (Walt Whitman).
  33. Lie on your back on stone, / the stone carved to fit / the shape of yourself. / Who made it like this, / knowing that I would be along / in a million years and look / at the sky being blue forever? (Simon Ortiz).
  34. Who wouldn’t be an eagle? Who hasn’t looked at what they love / and felt a lifting, or gliding, or plunge?
  35. When I moved away to Utah, she sent me a note: / “That’s probably a crazy place. / But you’re there now, so be about finding / instead of looking back. / I figure you know what I mean.”
  36. “What do you do for a living?” is a complicated question / since for a living and for money aren’t the same. / Living means a shoreline is better than a bank vault— / all those deposits of driftwood— / and wealth is measured / by the vivid moments in your life.
  37. Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It’s what everything else isn’t (Theodore Roethke).
  38. Give praise with the spider who builds a city out of her toes (Anne Sexton).
  39. Praise with an ice cube for it will hold up miniature polar bears for a second (Anne Sexton).
  40. If your mood swings hot and cold, / it probably means you’re a Toaster.
  41. If people always call you tasty, / you’re probably Bread.
  42. The whole populous of Toronto will take a shower with the whole populous of Buffalo in Niagara Falls (Scott Poole).
  43. Oh body, be glad. / You are good goods (Anne Sexton).
  44. beauty is twice / beauty / and what is good is doubly / good / when it is a matter of two socks / made of wool / in winter (Pablo Neruda).
  45. Somewhere in your city there’s a rooftop / and on that rooftop a garden / and in that garden is a color / no one’s ever named. / This isn’t a test. / And you won’t gain any money. / But let’s say choosing that color’s name / is up to you—
  46. Do you know how many good men live in this world? Too many to count! (Sherman Alexie).
  47. Fire leaps up from the kindling first / and always needs new branches; / no story the wind tells goes straight to one conclusion; / when dancers arrive, play music. Even with abandon.
  48. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (R.E.M.).



Rob CarneyRob Carney’s fourth book, 88 Maps, was published by Lost Horse Press (distribution by University of Washington Press). Previous books and chapbooks include Story Problems and Weather Report, both from Somondoco Press.
Read poetry by Rob Carney appearing in 6th Annual Contest Finalist, 4th Annual Contest Winner, and Issue 30. And listen to a new radio interview with Rob Carney, and here’s an older radio interview.

Photo of stained glass at chapel by msandersmusic, courtesy Pixabay. is the first online literary journal of place, publishing award-winning literature, art, editorials, and community case studies since 1998.