In late October in the park the autumn's faults begin to show: the houses suddenly go stark beyond a thinning poplar row; the edges of the leaves go brown on every chestnut tree in town. The honking birds go south again where I have gone in better times; the hardy ones, perhaps, remain to nestle in the snowy pines. I think of one bold, raucous bird whose wintry song I've often heard. I live among so many things that flash and fade, that come and go. One never knows what season brings relief and which will merely show how difficult it is to span a life, given the Fall of Man. The old ones dawdle on a bench, and young ones drool into their bibs; an idle boffer, quite a mensch, moves fast among the crowd with fibs. A painted lady hangs upon his word as if his sword was drawn. Among so many falling fast I sometimes wonder why I care; the first, as ever, shall be last; the last are always hard to bear. I never know if I should stay to see what ails the livelong day. I never quite know how to ask why some men wear bright, silver wings while others, equal to the task, must play the role of underlings. "It's what you know, not who," they swore. I should have known what to ignore. I started early, did my bit for freedom and the right to pray. I leaned a little on my wit, and learned the sort of thing to say, yet here I am, unsatisfied and certain all my elders lied. A middle man in middle way between the darkness and the dark, the seasons have tremendous sway: I change like chestnuts in the park. Come winter, I'll be branches, bones; come spring, a wetness over stones.
Blessings for these things:
the dandelion greens I picked in summer
and would douse with vinegar and oil
at grandma’s little house in Pennsylvania,
near the river. Or the small potatoes
she would spade to boil and butter,
which I ate like fruit with greasy fingers.
Blessings for my friend, thirteen
that summer when we prayed by diving from a cliff
on Sunday mornings in the church
of mud and pebbles, foam and moss.
I will not forget the fizz and tingle,
sunning in wet skin on flat, cool rocks,
so drenched in summer.
And for you, my love, blessings
for the times we lay so naked in a bed
without the sense of turbulence or tides.
I could just believe the softness of our skin,
those sheets like clouds,
how when the sunlight turned to roses,
neither of us dared to move or breathe.
Blessings on these things and more:
the rivers and the houses full of light,
the bitter weeds that taste like sun,
the hard bright pebbles, spongy mosses,
lifting of our bodies into whiffs of cloud,
all sleep-warm pillows in the break of dawn.