Wanting a Child

Here in California, we can drive through any
landscape, field, flower, forest, all in reach, 

at sunset, affording not to notice the exhaust
left in our stead. A daytrip takes us to the edge

of the continent, leaning out over some precipice,
looking back. We are home by dinner, the house

soft color, where our bodies move through dark’s
thin language and something calls, urgently, from after.

Some days I don’t know if it’s fair of me, built
as I am, a man, unable to carry every inch of an idea

into the future. In Gubbio, each spring brings
the same pageant. Up hills of the medieval town,

up streets obscured by screaming crowds, three teams
of men in bright blouses tumble upward with their tribute.

Up switchbacks, up stone roads smoothed by centuries’ 
tradition. In the middle of May they come this way, to carry

the wooden paraphrase of candles on their sweating,
rainbowed shoulders. Each four meters tall, an emblem

of a patron saint. The same one wins each year. 
All Umbria comes to watch this alias of a race. 

But the exertions are real: the men intent, although 
they know what little their ardor comes to. They pass 

the title on through blood. Each time, the cheers 
subside when they touch the basilica. They set

the good things down. What honor it must be 
to carry something so beyond you up into 

the sky, up toward the face of god. What work 
your faith must take. What flagrancy. 

Copyright © 2023 by Jay Deshpande. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.