Sonnet for David Attenborough


Science tells us the process exists

in the thing itself. A chimpanzee

is the sum of its processes, both

kinds within and without, one

metaphor of iteration at all scales.

Physiognomies, behaviors, moods

multiplied out of primordial soups,

spermatogeneses, ancestors as large

as sperm, once the largest things 

living on the face of the earth.

All this in the glassy look

of a chimpanzee clumsily

shucking nut-paste with a spatula

fashioned from a broken stalk.

R. Charboneau

Born To Work


[Fred Trump, aged 90, in the throes of dementia,

is greeted atop Fifth Avenue to sign some papers]


See I don’t sign it till Maryanne looks it over.

That last one of Don’s codicils she said didn’t

pass the smell test. I told her get, who was it

Mary, who did my estate last?—I told her get—

But I’ve always been careful, always, even

with the kids. They’re yours but they have

minds of their own. They want things and

when they’re young that’s all you want to do

is give them whatever it is without their asking.

Then they grow up and you start negotiating.

You’re trying to teach them what’s valuable.

If you’re lucky they’ll want what you have.

Continue reading “Born To Work”

To Will As One Wills


The impulse to satisfy an urge has become something different for me as I’ve gotten older.

Aside from your typical teenage proclivity to question authority, growing up I was bookish, timid, apprehensive. I was skeptical of the majority, uneasy towards what was expedient, and always suspicious of the possibility of being sold snake oil. As such, I’ve had a sense of myself as someone who’s selective and cautious about where he puts his attention and his efforts. Something had to really grab me, and keep my interest, and prove itself to me, before I warmed up to it, before I gave it a chance.

Nowadays I find myself indulging more easily, more quickly, in everything new. New experiences, new activities, new people, new ideas. My inhibitions have receded, and in every dimension of my life I find myself wanting to expand outwards in all directions. I’m ripe for the spoils of advertising, ready to throw away money, time, inclination, for anything that piques my interest. Do I want to try that new bar? Do I want to pick up this new hobby? Why not try being friends with this person, or why not date someone I wouldn’t normally date? What do I think about X? Why is it not the same way I think about Y? And what about Z?

I assume this has something to do with getting older, with feeling like one’s time is finite, and if that’s true why not follow my impulses wherever they lead me, even if I don’t end up following them for very long? (As it turns out I don’t like that new bar, I didn’t stick with that new hobby, I couldn’t find that person attractive. They are, after all, impulses.)

I believe I’ve remained healthily skeptical throughout, willing to examine my decisions even as I’ve grown more capricious in making them. What I find most interesting is that, as my apprehensions wane, my tastes become more refined. I become more discerning, more particular, pickier, than I already thought I was. And while I’ve certainly overturned old assumptions and discovered new interests, I’ve also found some assumptions to be more resilient, and some interests even more interesting.

The more people I meet, the more I find my close friends to be good people. The more music I listen to, the more beautiful I find classical and jazz to be. The more books I read, the more thankful I am for those few writers who do inspire me.

The more I open wide my aperture, the more narrow my depth of field becomes. I find that less is truly valuable, and what is valuable becomes practically invaluable.

It’s fascinating that, by making a conscious decision not to limit oneself, one discovers in the process a limited way of being. It reminds me of that quote by Schopenhauer: “A man can do as he wills, but not will as he wills.”

R. Charboneau


Artwork: Sattar Bahlulzade – The Desire of the Land (1963)