(after Mary Oliver)
It is not my plan to linger but when the woman walks by, bob
of orange wool on her head, hands deep in her pockets, her yellow Lab
beside her, I sit in my car watching the dog immune to the cold
in its buttermilk coat, legs a light trot across the blank scroll
of morning and the moon a white petal fallen from the sky
so when he gazes at his human, she is that gleam of all there is,
forever the world, a fervent wonder within his buoyant, beating heart.
And mine lifts in that moment, finds a wingbeat, rises
above the common reverie: how and when, the endless
chafe, these rasps of mortal longing.
At school bus stops, I allow this blessing, too — the pig-tailed girl
skipping over cracks, the boy who seals himself, face to belly, arms
around waist, against his mother’s warmth, the father who looks back
before the bus pulls away, momentarily hollowed, slow-shuffling
his silent terrors, gaping joys
alone to his front door.
I could tell you about the waiter who serves my coffee with lavish humor,
leaves a susurrant, sorrow-sweet drop in every cup, or the baby
at the checkout whose eyes captivate, pure amber, darting
into the center of every old encumbrance.
Sometimes it’s like this, the noticing, the exchange, human
chorus of curiosity, witness and delight.
But then there are the trees, the sycamore in its white robe, knobby
branches sprawled across a winter sky, the shaggy
sugar maple with its song for burning dreams.
How can I not praise the poplar billowing with its tulip
blossoms, the paper lanterns of the hardy goldenrain?
I tell you, some days it is water, tumble or whisper
in the forest, the deer bowed in the fields at dusk, whistle
of the yellow-breasted chat flung above the briars, as if
it has decided against loss, the risk of never being seen.
And have you, too, been saved by such love, spooned
its depths and shallows? Awakened in darkness, once
more on the precipice only to paw your way
to the stone with its kernel of joy, these words
with their tangle of light?