After my night job, I sat in class and ate, every thirteen minutes, an orange peanut—butter cracker. Bright grease adorned my notes. At noon I rushed to my day job and pushed a broom enough to keep the boss calm if not happy. In a hiding place, walled off by bolts of calico and serge, I read my masters and copied Donne, Marlowe, Dickinson, and Frost, scrawling the words I envied, so my hand could move as theirs had moved and learn outside of logic how the masters wrote. But why? Words would never heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, blah, blah, blah. Why couldn't I be practical, Dad asked, and study law— or take a single business class? I stewed on what and why till driving into work one day, a burger on my thigh and a sweating Coke between my knees, I yelled, "Because I want to!"— pained—thrilled!—as I looked down from somewhere in the blue and saw beneath my chastened gaze another slack romantic chasing his heart like an unleashed dog chasing a pickup truck. And then I spilled my Coke. In sugar I sat and fought a smirk. I could see my new life clear before me. lt looked the same. Like work.
Storms of perfume lift from honeysuckle, lilac, clover—and drift across the threshold, outside reclaiming inside as its home. Warm days whirl in a bright unnumberable blur, a cup—a grail brimmed with delirium and humbling boredom both. I was a boy, I thought I'd always be a boy, pell—mell, mean, and gaily murderous one moment as I decapitated daises with a stick, then overcome with summer's opium, numb—slumberous. I thought I'd always be a boy, each day its own millennium, each one thousand years of daylight ending in the night watch, summer's pervigilium, which I could never keep because by sunset I was an old man. I was Methuselah, the oldest man in the holy book. I drowsed. I nodded, slept—and without my watching, the world, whose permanence I doubted, returned again, bluebell and blue jay, speedwell and cardinal still there when the light swept back, and so was I, which I had also doubted. I understood with horror then with joy, dubious and luminous joy: it simply spins. It doesn't need my feet to make it turn. It doesn't even need my eyes to watch it, and I, though a latecomer to its surface, I'd be leaving early. It was my duty to stay awake and sing if I could keep my mind on singing, not extinction, as blurred green summer, lifted to its apex, succumbed to gravity and fell to autumn, Ilium, and ashes. In joy we are our own uncomprehending mourners, and more than joy I longed for understanding and more than understanding I longed for joy.