Flourishing

My therapist says I'm afraid of vanishing.
Last week his ceiling caved in, ending our session
in a shower of words and water.
I'm serious. I'm always serious
when I talk about therapists and cave-ins.
This morning I'm serious in a train
sliding past a clock-tower constructed
when this city thought it was flourishing. Flourishing
is a form of vanishing, a verb embedded in what comes after.
Once there was a city that flourished, its spires confident and secure
as my therapist's ceiling. Once there was a train
that pulled out of a once-flourishing city.
One morning I was on that train, speeding between woods and river,
through a village of wooden houses and plots in a cemetery,
moving on, vanishing
too fast to become part of local history.
Vanishing was fun, like a sky skydiving.
I was the sky into which I dove.
I brooded above the little wooden town
and postage-stamp cemetery.
Time said, “Welcome to the fountain.”
History said, “You're already forgotten.”
Wind-scalloped river, algae-covered pond, fronds of goldenrod,
a patch of reeds and then a factory parking lot, cars and men
moving slowly, lit by Sunday morning.
The train slowed to a stop, waiting to claim the single track ahead.
I will tell my therapist, when we meet again
beneath his brand-new ceiling,
“Once I was sitting on a train,
stopped dead and already gone.
Happy. Flourishing.'”

More by Joy Ladin

Time Passes

Time too is afraid of passing, is riddled with holes
through which time feels itself leaking.
Time sweats in the middle of the night
when all the other dimensions are sleeping.
Time has lost every picture of itself as a child.
Now time is old, leathery and slow.
Can’t sneak up on anyone anymore,
Can’t hide in the grass, can’t run, can’t catch.
Can’t figure out how not to trample
what it means to bless.

Tarot Readings Daily

They’re reading Tarot cards right now,
in the little pink house with the sign in the yard.
Shadows spider across still-green lawn
whose fate, so far, defies the frosts.

Someone asks the right question,
draws the right card.
Many cups in the immediate future;
radiance pouring down.

They know the future,
the creatures in the yard:
night, thirst, frost.
Only the sapiens in the house believe

fire, water, air, and earth
would bother to reveal
when to fear and love.
The one who’s paying

draws another card.
Outside, in the yard,
a squirrel noses seed that fell
like radiance, from above.

 

Between Wars

You’ve lost your soul again. Go back
to the window. Note the crocus
defying expectations

in the bed your mother hunkers over,
missing you, in her fashion,
now that you’re always there.

Why don’t you wear your uniform, she asks.
Will you ever get out of bed,
running her hand through your uncombed curls,

sweating eau de toilette
that forces you both to remember
the hollows she cannot scent.

Several soldiers’ buttons
glitter in her trowel, a spectacular find
that conjures and erases

the sad, stained trench
in which their bodies vanished.
Your mother gives a cry of surprise.

The child she bore
bears you no resemblance; only
this habit of losing your soul

suggests yours is the head
she brushed, in a perfumed cloud,
straightening what wasn’t tangled,

as something rolled across the floor,
where she would never find it. 
Many surrenders later,

what glittered and rolled
perforated by equidistant holes
while you froze in her haze of fragrance

has surfaced among the spears of crocus,
as though the boys who burst their buttons
jabbing dummies with bayonets

had risen from their graves,
untangled, untarnished,
ready to forgive.