Issue 154, Spring 2000
Time pours into the present, while a greater,
Vaguer presence menaces the borders of that country
Whose geography lies entirely within.
Half-hidden trees, half-articulated sounds
And the sympathetic murmur of the heightened mind—
These are the symptoms of an inwardness made visible
In deferential gestures and repeated words.
Come seek me, let the expiation start
The genie said, and for a while the air was
Sweeter with the promise of another life,
An afterlife, all eager to begin.
Yet things are temporary, and the beautiful design
That seemed to lurk behind a fragrant veil
Dissolved, leaving the houses, streets,
The trees, the canyons, even the distant hills,
As they were before.
What wilderness resumes,
What world is offered to the milky light
As the air turns vagrant with the scent of spring?
The prayers are possibilities renewed,
Uncertainties restored, which as they cast their shadows
Bring the magic vagueness back to life.
The days were studies in belief,
The evenings like a chamber filled with grace
And buffeted by doubts and dreams
That vanished in the morning, whose uneasy
Presence lingered all the way to school.
It was an incoherent way of living in the world—
Living in the bubble of an adolescent poem
Composed in equal parts of hope and fear
And of a cruelty that conjured up a vision of a
Hell so vivid that the room dissolved. The church retreat
Seems yesterday, but it was forty years ago.
Between, the soul and its surroundings
Came to terms: a few hymns kept their grandeur,
But the rest retreated to the smaller forms
Of happiness and disappointment, to the minor keys
Of a life turned literal.