Mom has been cleaning the house I grew up in;
she’s mailed me a stack of old poems I wrote
by hand, back when I wrote by hand and carried pen and
paper at all times—just in case. The poems are no good,
just a few decent similes I can’t think what to do with,
like coins from a long-forgotten empire only I value.
Maybe they’ll inspire you, Mom says. I promise to give
the collection a title such as Winter Snaps the Trees.
I read while my son naps. A car passes; its tires crunch
on de-icing salt; I am inspired. Expanses of snow-laden
fields radiate light, which catches in my mind’s eye
and stuns me. I remember when, learning of Buddha,
I became convinced I was enlightened, and paced the yard
the way I imagined a Saint would pace: deliberately, hands
clasped behind my back. Now I set aside the old pages and
walk, stiffly, to the window. They say one never steps into
the same river twice. But is this not the same world I stared
at years ago, when I could close my eyes and will away war
and hunger—all those horrors I had the power to stop?
The glass is cold, the way glass is almost always cold.
I press my forehead to it as though to cure a fever. A bird
I cannot name—Hawk? Robin?—streaks past, squawking.
Somewhere a branch snaps off an ancient tree. Somewhere
a teenager wanders his yard, full of unreasonable dreams,
ideals he has yet to disappoint. In my book, the boy meets his
adult self. They discuss what the other knows and doesn’t know.
By the time my son stirs, then cries, I too am crying,
I too find joy in every object, turning it in my hands.