Russell Shorto

Don’t Tell Me

About clouds

Bruising up and settling

In among us, glooming

The hollow day: I

Invented the things.

Sun is where

You hang your hat,

A peg of yellow

That blots out

After you’ve stepped

Into the room

And removed your wet things

And everyone blames you


And I guess

You spend the rest

Of your era wondering

Where the warm life

Went or maybe secretly, self-

Hidden, you know you

Killed it yourself.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to introduce

You to my good friend,

Steady rain.  The fact

Is it isn’t

What you think

Because you think

Emotionally.  The day

Has no feeling in itself

And if it has for you

You know only the memory

Of an event or two

Long past and so empty like

Wet lines

Scarring the carpet

In the shape

Of a shoe

Ghosts that live

In your brain only

Or convince you

They do.  My wisdom

Therefore: give

Until a crack sounds,

Until you smell

Something opening up

In the earth, dirt-alive.

Take that damp cloth

And wipe your forehead

Clean.  Obey precepts

From ancient authorities.

Abjure drizzle.  Sigh.

Sleep. Wake.

Worry. Dread. Sweat.

Now go.

About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar