The alarm goes off at 4. I will myself to my
feet, not for a grand mission, but to catch
a flight. In the predawn darkness, driving the
101 to the 405, I recite Clifton, Keats, & Limón
to ward off sleep & all that has tried to kill me
& has failed. For now, at least, the stakes are
low—the traffic is light; I arrive early, half-hoping
the trip is canceled so I can crawl back to bed.
Back home my mother-in-law has had an aneurysm,
she is in a hospital full of people for whom the music
that never stops may, any moment, stop ringing in their
ears. I shut off the radio & tap my foot to the silence.
Once, struggling with some verse like a gardener
pulling at weeds, I made a deal with myself:
produce one poem that can reverberate through
history, harmonizing with the light of the ever-
expanding expanse of space, & I’ll put down
my pen, retire to a life of leisure, television,
good food slowly eaten. But it was a lie. Desire
does not die before the body—even prophets &
monks want, badly, to be heard, vows of silence
notwithstanding. What chance do poets have
to extinguish the mind’s longing to outlive itself?
If I’m lucky the world will come to my deathbed,
shushing the robins & hyenas. If I’m lucky the world
will hear me, & my last words will keep time.