Leaving Things Unfinished

As the black wings close in on you, 
their circling shadows blighting the sand, 
and your limp legs buckle, far 
from that shimmering oasis 
on the horizon, 

as you face the implacable, 
hoping for one more lucky reprieve 
which you feel in your quivering heart 
will arrive a moment too late, 

even after the first white pill, 
you will not surrender, 
for back there somewhere, 
safe from the hovering vultures, 
is that sketchy 
grand design, that revolution 
on the drawing board—no, 

all these years you've resisted 
that sleek seducer, Completion—and now, 
as the mask snugs over your face, you feel 
your legs go young again, heading out 
for the shimmering palm trees 
they will never reach, 
and you suck in great welcome gulps 
of the endlessly possible.

Copyright © 2003 by Philip Appleman. Reprinted from the Paris Review. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.