How Aren’t You?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

“Reach your long hand out to another door, beyond where
you go on the street, the street
where everyone says, “How are you?”
and no one says, “How aren’t you?”
— Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

What life have you forgotten?
Or whose? The hungry cardinal

echo yells his food song. The nest
the wind has made collapses

in the heat, sometimes an airplane
low above us, hand-built in a garage

over many years by a man in love
with gears and wings. Or a long distance

trucker eating one horizon after another,
his right knee pinned in pain the whole ride

that never leads to anything he would call
home. Sometimes you, passing by

all the witnessing stories as if all that aren’t
you anymore or ever actually could be.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. Her new podcast is Tell Me Your Truest Story. Find out more about her at,, and

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