The Moving Finger Writes
And the Writings Haunt Me

I have written countless essays about my hauntings. I have absolutely no idea why I am obsessed by the drive to explain everything in my life. While I am a dreamer, I am also haunted by wanting to know.

Case in point. When I was in high school, I had to memorialize a hundred lines of prose or poetry each semester. It was a requirement that I detested. I hated standing in front of a teacher, like Mrs. Davis, in my senior year reciting something. This article is about a quatrain from the Rubáiyát written by Omar Khayyám.

Omar is drinking and reading the Rubáiyát to his friend.

The word, Rubáiyát, simply is the plural of the Persian word for quatrain. These two quatrains are what I memorized for Mrs. Davis nearly six decades ago.

Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help–for It
As impotently moves as you or I.

What I took away from Omar Khayyám two quatrains wasn’t much more than some mysterious finger is writing something that couldn’t be deleted by crying over what was written. I hated the assignment due to the memorizing and also not getting much from what I memorized. That being said and once I graduated from high school, never does a day go by without me remembering something that I memorized a long time ago.

Additionally, in this case, it also haunts me that these two quatrains simply emerged in my mind while I sit in my dentist’s waiting room. Why did these two stanzas dart around inside my brain? There was no issue pressing me. It was a normal day.


What was obvious after pondering for a moment, it dawned on me that the quatrains were attempting to resolve my issues in my life. I grabbed a piece of paper to write an outline for this essay when a dental assistant called, “Al, you’re next.” That was bad timing. I put the paper away and dutifully followed the dental assistant to my chair. As the dentist explained about the two joining cavities in the lower left of my mouth, I tried to write an outline in my mind. There I sat with huge sun glasses while my dentist and his assistant chatted about something. I noticed that another assistant stood behind the first one to get something if needed. Finally, I was able to leave the dentist’s office without forgetting my train of thought.

I went home processing the moving finger quatrain. Then it hit me. I got the message that Omar Khayyám was sending. We can’t change what is written. I have written about the hauntings regarding feeling dumb and poor in Mt. Lebanon, my two dances with death, and Ti Ti and my family.

It took me half my life to grasp that I was neither dumb nor poor. My two successful dances with death were obviously wins for myself; I am still alive. However, it took me several years before someone essentially told me that I danced with death. Ti Ti bridging our families together was another game changer for me. She not only was the person that united our families but added my extended family with whom she and her sisters attend school. Ti Ti is the reason for my fundraising drive with GoFundMe to raise a half million for 1250 laptops for the two schools in Myanmar where they attend classes.

What Omar Khayyám said was restated by Randy Pausch. “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the game.” This is a critical issue. What happens out there in the world and how it impacts our lives is a fete de complete. However, Khayyám and Pausch are saying that we should do all that we can with the writings of the finger and the cards that are dealt us. If we merely cave-in to the reality of the moving finger or the cards, we suffer. Instead, ACT. Crying about what the finger wrote or the cards won’t change things. However, you have the chance to change things by the act of carpe diem.