Sometimes a child will stare out of a window for a moment or an hour—deciphering the future from a dusky summer sky. Does he imagine that some wisp of cloud reveals the signature of things to come? Or that the world’s a book we learn to translate? And sometimes a girl stands naked by a mirror imagining beauty in a stranger’s eyes finding a place where fear leads to desire. For what is prophecy but the first inkling of what we ourselves must call into being? The call need not be large. No voice in thunder. It’s not so much what’s spoken as what’s heard— and recognized, of course. The gift is listening and hearing what is only meant for you. Life has its mysteries, annunciations, and some must wear a crown of thorns. I found my Via Dolorosa in your love. And sometimes we proceed by prophecy, or not at all—even if only to know what destiny requires us to renounce. O Lord of indirection and ellipses, ignore our prayers. Deliver us from distraction. Slow our heartbeat to a cricket’s call. In the green torpor of the afternoon, bless us with ennui and quietude. And grant us only what we fear, so that Underneath the murmur of the wasp we hear the dry grass bending in the wind and the spider’s silken whisper from its web.
From Pity the Beautiful by Dana Gioia. Copyright © 2012 by Dana Gioia. Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.