I hear the sound of the sprinkler outside, not the soft kind we used to run through
but the hard kind that whips in one direction then cranks back and starts again.
Last night we planned to find the white argument of the Milky Way
but we are twenty years too late. Last night I cut the last stargazer
lily to wear in my hair.
This morning, the hardest geography quiz I’ve ever taken: how does one carry
oneself from mountain to lake to desert without leaving anything behind?
Perhaps I ought to have worked harder.
Perhaps I could have paid more attention.
A mountain I didn’t climb. Music I yearned for but could not achieve.
I travel without maps, free-style my scripture, pretend the sky is an adequate
representation of my spiritual beliefs.
The sprinkler switches off. The grass will be wet.
I haven’t even gotten to page 2 of my life and I’m probably more than halfway through,
who knows what kind of creature I will become.
Copyright © 2019 by Kazim Ali. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
“I was in Sq**w Valley, California where the Community of Writers takes place. For a week one lives in the mountains and writes poetry, a new poem every day in fact. By the end of the week I fell back onto pure observation. One feels mortal among mountains. The implacable evolution of stone—proof that the continents themselves shift beneath us with dramatic speed and violence—puts shame somehow to how little humans manage to learn and to have learned in both our individual single lives but also as a species.”