Man Hesitates but Life Urges

There is this shifting, endless film
And I have followed it down the valleys
And over the hills,—
Pointing with wavering finger
When it disappeared in purple forest-patches
With its ruffle and wave to the slightest-breathing wind-God.

There is this film
Seen suddenly, far off,
When the sun, walking to his setting,
Turns back for a last look,
And out there on the far, far prairie
A lonely drowsing cabin catches and holds a glint,
For one how endless moment,
In a staring window the fire and song of the martyrs!

There is this film
That has passed to my fingers
And I have trembled,
Afraid to touch.

And in the eyes of one
Who had wanted to give what I had asked
But hesitated—tried—and then
Came with a weary, aged, “Not quite,”
I could but see that single realmless point of time,
All that is sad, and tired, and old—
And endless, shifting film.

And I went again
Down the valleys and over the hills,
Pointing with wavering finger,
Ever reaching to touch, trembling,
Ever fearful to touch.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.