I have asked how not to become morose
at a time when all lights flicker, a time
when the sky hesitates, the sun
avoids my glance, and the moon
pitches after a restless night into
the sickly western haze.
The dawn is not cool; the afternoon
has no warmth; evening brings a glare
of streetlamps, blue and unlovely,
that give false counsel to the moths
and little of use to my feet.
I have asked, and receive your silence.
Well, I will try my own answers.
To live at times of crisis is the common lot:
we are not singled out. Boccaccio
pulled his hood over his nose and hurried away,
Chaucer put off his trip to Paris, and wondered
if his butt of wine would come this year.
Peevish princes, venal and unwise
are not a new invention of our time,
nor are mobs that drag a man
with the wrong name off to death.
These are old, old stories.
Often told, half-listened.
And no answer. Let me try again:
all this fret and unease comes
because we think we know:
and we do not know.
There are better times and worse times, perhaps;
certainly lives happier, lives more distressed;
but we are swallowed by the fish of the future
and what we will find in its belly
we do not know. Not what we thought.
Did we really love the lineaments
of the made world so much, that we must
fear to lose them? Let them go.
Democracy, the rights of man,
the golden rule: they will all be found
and lost again, broken and restored.
The storytelling apes will have
their algae-bloom, their die-off;
the rains will come and the seas will rise.
Is it our business to know, or even to attend?
Yesterday at twilight an apple tree
was heavy with white blossom,
whiter than could be believed, so that I stopped
and tried to tell how mere reflection
could be brighter than the dimming sky.
The wind rises. Branches toss their heads,
a ruffle runs through the ferns; sparrows
jostle by the pool. There is a new front,
slate gray, implacable, moving inland:
too slow for the motion to be seen, but eating up the sky.
Still silent? Or is this your answer? Rain,
a day-long, week-long rain. The crows call
each to each. All my failures are laid out
before me, but even those
the rising wind lifts, and carries away:
it leaves only this blessing,
this enormous blessing, of the rain.