On Shelly Beach

If by chance
the world just one day happened
and you came to being
from the person before
and they
from yet the person before
how sad it must feel
that beyond the sixty years
or so
or sometimes much less
that that
was all
that there was
no more

If by chance
you spent each of your days
in quiet splendor
beneath the warm sun
your visions captured
by the world around you
and if you could soar each day
as a gull
having the vantage
of the highest view
the radiance of the earth below
what would it all mean to you?

And if by chance
you could live as a king
tasting the sweetest meats
loving the firmest flesh
with drink and song
laughter for every course
what would it mean
knowing someday it would
have to end?

What if by chance
you were enslaved
a prisoner
a political pawn
tortured and killed
because nations could not agree
as to what was just
what then would your life be worth?
or what if you were born
to the poorest nation
a child without arms or legs
whose parents had left you
starving and better off dead
what would life mean to you?

And if by chance
you were born an average person
of average means
as most of us are
and you lived your life
somewhere in the middle
average joy
average sorrow
an average number of years
and too
for you
one day it was through
that's all
no more
the end
what would life mean to you?

      N.J. Hartney

On Shelly Beach - Australia, 8/12/1990