. . . PEOPLE’S WHOLE LIVES DO PASS IN FRONT OF THEIR EYES
BEFORE THEY DIE. THE PROCESS IS CALLED “LIVING.”
~Death (The Last Continent, by Terry Pratchett)
Sometimes the hungry baby was left to cry.
The llama at the zoo spat,
someone stole the arrowheads.
A woman in a white dress played a harp by candlelight.
The teacher’s pet got the lead in the play.
Father pulled the sled through the lamplit park in the falling snow.
Later, he started to drink and Mother wouldn’t tell.
There were springs with fragrant crabapple bloom,
and summer crowns of daisy and vetch.
There was a Christmas when everyone had chicken pox.
There was the lover who, after long uphill walks,
after kisses in summer rain, left without saying goodbye.
There was a lover who stayed,
a sister who died,
a child who grew up and went away.
There were hands, eyes, the songs of many birds.
There was good work and disappointing work,
illness that caused pain—yet always
autumn passed with color creeping down the hills
and coyotes gathered under the window to sing
to the mice and the moon
Sometimes there was a year without
noticeable weather, flavor or song;
a moment large enough
to hold a city or a forest.
Often it had to do with being awake:
smelling every single thing,
noticing the way the light shifted,
the arm ached, the sparrow fell.
Always there was the body,
strange receptacle of lust and sleep,
where time and the highway intersected,
where infinity met friends for coffee,
where every passage
was a kind of standing still.
They were in a church for a couple of weeks
and then they replaced the angels.
Only a couple of weeks
so they must have been
very holy, very light.
Hard work: on call at all hours
but beyond the concept of hour
since in Heaven there is no time.
Circadian rhythm shot to hell.
Great clothes, however, and,
though technically unnecessary,
haloes and gorgeous wings.
The fear aspect would be disconcerting–
always to manifest unexpectedly
and required to reassure:
Oh, don’t be scared.
I’m just one of God’s infinite Voices,
here to tell you something
that will forever invert your life.
So who would want it?
But then, the woman who shared this piece of news
with her companion didn’t say
if the angel replacements were pleased.
And–and this is my major concern–
what of the angels who were displaced?
Where–if there is a where–did they go?
Are they here, disguised in sweaters and jeans,
bemused at the effects of gravity?
Or are they there, speeding mysteries,
comprising the incomprehensible
energy of the Dark?
There is only one thing,
in all its depths and surfaces:
the moon, the brain,
drifts of river stones,
the subtle shadings of cloud,
a chipmunk on a branch
of glossy evergreen.
With delicate tiny hands
she picks yew berries
the color and shape
of red blood cells.
Her black bead eyes, lined with white,
gleam like moonlight
on river stones.
Once in my youth I saw her,
feared her, fled her.
Once heard her rustling wings,
her voice behind me, summoning.
There was something she would say,
something then I would not hear,
something youth won’t contemplate
in the springing of its year.
In the stormy fields of summer,
deceived, I thought that she was gone,
all that dizzy hot green summer
on the shore of Acheron.
But all green hayfields fade to yellow.
Autumn rains erode the clay.
All the cornfields rustle yellow.
Nothing green can stay.
And as I walk the fields of stubble,
my own gray shadow blocks the sun.
I see my breath-cloud in the air
and black crows gather everywhere.
She could see only shadows,
narrow strips of green,
the outlines of ghosts dancing
on the edges of her eyes.
Daylight was a pressure
on her lids, and darkness cool release.
like wind through small trees,
and when the moon rumbled up,
she heard the awakening owls.
Now she slept all day,
and all night long she roamed the woods
or knelt on the pulsing grass,
From perfect tart pink-striped green crisp ripe
to red-orange candle-wax sweet grainy mush
in the time it takes to count one hundred yellow-boxed bushels.
Warming October windrush pushes drops
from the tops in a dither of yellow coin leaf,
soft squash plop sounding low below the rustle swish.
And all along the yellow-brown whispering orchard grass
a windfall river for scavenging mice,
bland-eyed rabbits, furrowing bowing deer.
By the fire-crackle applewood orange red flame
sitting still in the cider barrel applefull house
we hear them under the half-moon gleam, gleaning.