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by Robert Bly

A man told me once that all the bad people
Were needed. Maybe not all, but your fingernails
You need; they are really claws, and we know
Claws. The sharks--what about them?
They make other fish swim faster. The hard-faced men
In black coats who chase you for hours
In dreams--that's the only way to get you
To the shore. Sometimes those hard women
Who abandon you get you to say, "You."
A lazy part of us is like a tumbleweed.
It doesn't move on its own. It takes sometimes
A lot of Depression to get tumbleweeds moving.
Then they blow across three or four States.
This man told me that things work together.
Bad handwriting sometimes leads to new ideas;
And a careless God--who refuses to let you
Eat from the Tree of Knowledge--can lead
To books, and eventually to us. We write
Poems with lies in them, but they help a little.

Robert Bly is the author of many books, including Iron John (1990) and Meditations on the Insatiable Soul (1994), a collection of poems.

Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; March 1995; Bad People; Volume 275, No. 3; page 68.

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