This is what life does. It lets you walk up to the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman down beside you at the counter who say, Last night, the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder, is this a message, finally, or just another day? Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the pond, where whole generations of biological processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds speak to you of the natural world: they whisper, they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old enough to appreciate the moment? Too old? There is movement beneath the water, but it may be nothing. There may be nothing going on. And then life suggests that you remember the years you ran around, the years you developed a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon, owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have become. And then life lets you go home to think about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time. Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one who never had any conditions, the one who waited you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave, so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you were born at a good time. Because you were able to listen when people spoke to you. Because you stopped when you should have and started again. So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland, while outside, the starfish drift through the channel, with smiles on their starry faces as they head out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.
The Mystery of Meteors
I am out before dawn, marching a small dog through a meager park Boulevards angle away, newspapers fly around like blind white birds Two days in a row I have not seen the meteors though the radio news says they are overhead Leonid's brimstones are barred by clouds; I cannot read the signs in heaven, I cannot see night rendered into fire And yet I do believe a net of glitter is above me You would not think I still knew these things: I get on the train, I buy the food, I sweep, discuss, consider gloves or boots, and in the summer, open windows, find beads to string with pearls You would not think that I had survived anything but the life you see me living now In the darkness, the dog stops and sniffs the air She has been alone, she has known danger, and so now she watches for it always and I agree, with the conviction of my mistakes. But in the second part of my life, slowly, slowly, I begin to counsel bravery. Slowly, slowly, I begin to feel the planets turning, and I am turning toward the crackling shower of their sparks These are the mysteries I could not approach when I was younger: the boulevards, the meteors, the deep desires that split the sky Walking down the paths of the cold park I remember myself, the one who can wait out anything So I caution the dog to go silently, to bear with me the burden of knowing what spins on and on above our heads For this is our reward:Come Armageddon, come fire or flood, come love, not love, millennia of portents-- there is a future in which the dog and I are laughing Born into it, the mystery, I know we will be saved