Far off, a kid’s high voice seesaws the wind,
then stops. Snowfall of bloom on the azaleas,
two small cardinals angled at the feeder—
the earth has tilted toward the sun and strikes
a perfect equilibrium for a day.
And I’m there myself, in my backyard, on
the sheer seam where soul and body breathe
in unison, sweetness sifting the noon air,
my shadow gathered at my feet, tucked
almost out of sight. Leaf-murmurs lullaby
the light. But then: the last breath of winter
lashes out: How can it be I have to die?
Banal, banal, I tell myself. And the word is
a knell astray among the lenten roses.
The door is always open, Epictetus
once whispered in my ear, when I had no
idea he was one of the great teachers.
A yard-sale find, that skinny book, a shadow
of mold winging its back cover, that one
golden word that turned out to be a name
embossed on its spine. Why cling on
to pain, the ancient, gentle voice explained,
when the way out was left wide for me
to leave sorrow behind at any time.
A balm, that thought, to my unhappy youth,
a badly needed potion, a freeing truth.
But then, when was it door began to rhyme
with ash? With wind? With—