If only each line of a poem could be its true beginning. If only each moment could know every other moment and we could hold them all at once the way we wish to, the way we keep imagining we can. I don’t care what anyone says about the impossibility, for I step into the same moment again and again. I’ve lived such a blessed life, a dying friend told me as I leaned in close and caressed her face. I am writing this line, this poem’s true beginning, six years later, touching her radiant face again. Every moment is the time I followed a yellow leaf downstream when I was nine. To be, or not to be, Hamlet asked, and two centuries later, Issa’s poems were born. And yet, and yet the cancer still arrives to steal her breath, the same breath blessing all her time. Just now a purple bird flew up and startled me, and I said, Yes, yes, and raised my hands. To live lightly in the body is to live deeply in the spirit—I say her words out loud some days, holding them all at once, and follow a yellow leaf through overhanging limbs and enter my grandfather’s quiet steps along a ridge a century ago when he was young. He is being and not being, in and out of shadows, arriving wherever the next step takes him, here and here. When rain begins, he just keeps walking, drenched and smiling, emerging decades later, holy. Sometimes an echo hints from half a life ago. A driveway puddle trembles at the foster home I lived in when I was three. Good Lord, son, how did you know how to get here, the father asked when I showed up, adult, from two towns over. In the beginning was the Word, John wrote, for each word starts anew, each word startling the sky, the cells, the breath. Each word, each line, is an echo, an arrival, a blessed breath, being and not being. I don’t care about the impossibility of anything. The dawn keeps breaking for which I am awake. The prologue is the epilogue, the epilogue a leaf holding everything at once. I keep arriving where I am, born and blessed again. I lean in close to radiance: I’ve always known how to get here.
Copyright © 2017 Jeff Hardin. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.