All this love-making, or daring to come alive

(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?