I sit on the garden bench
in the cool dawn and
suddenly the breeze kicks up,
comes rushing from the northwest,
and like a three-month-old puppy,
surrounds me and licks my face clean.
I wake again to see the robin glide from the phone wire
to the blue spruce, looking my way
as if he's on tour and I'm the attraction.
He leaves and a squirrel starts across the stone wall,
stopping at the tree (I've never known its name -
how could I not know it after 38 years?)
Stopping at the tree long enough
to peer in the hole in its trunk like a child,
checking too early on a Sunday morning
to see if his playmate is up and can come out.
He emerges alone and continues along the wall.
I will walk in the yard.
I will feel the earth, soft, damp
and living beneath my feet with miracles
I can only start to imagine,
headlined by the green sprouts of spring bulbs
emerging from a winter's rest,
undaunted by days of ice and snow.
Ice and snow - there is one dying patch,
a grey shadow, really, thin and worn,
in the backyard that the sun
has not yet reformed.
And I will start to know once again
that I am part of it all.
That the machines,
the drama, the excitement, terror
of this war in Iraq
cannot separate me from the reality,
the once and future, ever present
I long to know. I did know. I will know.
War's hold - the breath of evil -
can soil my soul for moments, days, and weeks -
but I return . . . I return.
The paper stays in the box by the road,
shouting for me to join its world,
and I turn a deaf ear to it.
Bren will be up shortly. We will walk the beach,
we will eat a quiet breakfast,
we will go to Meeting.
Escape the war? Never.
But there is so much more,
and to this, all this, I return.
This morning I saw the world with candle eyes
- saw it before we turned our face to the sun -
saw it dark and glistening
and I smiled at the great swan
heading south in perpetual flight,
her tail and wings marked by brilliant diamonds,
her eye, beyond my naked reach, I knew
as my favorite blue and gold twins.
But I knew this from memory
of nights when this "double star," Albeireo by name,
had sent its photons tumbling down the tube of my telescope,
exciting my eyes, pinging my brain, and touching my heart.
But as I said, that was in my memory
from nights more planned, sights more prepared for.
This morning I didn't really see the stars,
I saw the shapes they made.
I saw the swan, saw it perhaps, as
some naked savage, stripped of the light of knowledge within
and the light of electricity without,
might have seen it as he walked to the door of his rude hut.
Peered out, and knew - knew that all was as it should be
As it always was,
And I shivered - shivered to my core - with magical delight.
Perhaps you don't know of what I speak?
Perhaps your world is always bounded by the night
- the darkness, checked only by the light you throw about
to scare away the demons, real and unreal
that lurk there?
No, I do not mean just your street lights,
your city lights, your home spot lights
which sense the motion of a stray dog
and suddenly stab the soft hues of black,
crudely wounding the soul of darkness.
No, it is not just those lights,
but the lights within that tend to blind us
to all that is without -
the lights we think we need in our homes,
lights to move from room to room and about our rooms.
These too shield us from the night without,
for they dim our eyes - constrict our pupils - making them think it is day
and these inner lights bounce off the window glass
recreating scenes from within and hiding all that's without.
Candle eyes are different.
A candle or two gives us enough light
to walk about the room, but not so much as to dim our eyes,
so when we go to the window - there -
there in a glory that exceeds all imagination -
is the universe - the universe with its thousand
pinpoints of light that for centuries -
millenia no doubt - guided the thoughts
and dreams of our ancestors.
The universe, now so often denied us by these
far lesser stars, of which we are so proud,
our electric bulbs.
And are there other inner lights that hide while appearing to reveal?
What of our hard-won knowledge of what "really" is?
Knowledge that those pinpoints of light
That seem so small and weak
are really nuclear furnaces that glow beyond
all the depths of hell?
Knowledge that it was in this nuclear hell we were born -
that's what they say.
Make no doubt, we are star stuff.
Science tells us that - that all the elements
necessary for life were once created in a star
and let loose on creation in an explosion
beyond all human imaginings,
and science tells us that some day
these self same stars will eat us,
enrapt us with gossamer tendrils of gas
and take us to their core,
has science outrun our sense?
Have our minds rushed off without our hearts?
Has the light of knowledge within - noble and magnificent as it is -
hidden from us the light without?
Filled us with a false sense of seeing, an incomplete sense of knowing,
In which we see the outline of Eden and yet see it not?
Brought us to see ourselves, not as all,
but as separate, and over all?
some clear night,
turn off the outer lights and inner too,
sit still in your darkened room,
and wait in silence until your feet grow roots,
and your hands dangle at the ends of your limbs
like dried leaves - senseless as if they are separate states
that have ended diplomatic relations with your brain.
Sit there in stillness until you are sure
That only you are there, yet you are not only.
let your eyes know the night,
walk gently to the window
and see if you can see with candle eyes
the swan who wings her way eternally south,
outlined by the stars that are above you,
yet of you,
the stars that today make a swan.
The stars that yesterday were your cradle
and tomorrow will be your grave.
Then and only then,
Will you know why I shiver to the core,
Not with the shaking of cold - the chill of body or soul,
but with the peace that knows that I am,
that I will be, that I belong.