“. . . it is the going we remember
it is the way that comes along with us”
(W. S. Merwin, “Only Now”)
In time, we only recall what has been waiting for us
in the early dark of 4:00 a.m., coffee brewed,
a square of dark chocolate, having leashed Lucy Dog
and walked with her the backyard’s seemingly capricious path
to pee and slather her water bowl, her fur a muff
around her neck dipping into the water, the north wind
clutching my face inside the hoodie–Get To Work.
A daily reminder this cold will return, but not now,
freeze my stare past the trees to the west corner of the fence,
the alley beyond, creatures come from the creek
at the end of our neighborhood, what Lucy Dog sees,
tugs at the leash, still puzzled I will not, cannot, not yet,
accommodate her herding dog instinct and vision
to route whatever Evil waits in cohering shadows.
For now, I choose to record in my Moleskine notebook
a kind of joy, touching down each lightly printed letter
from the throwback Blackwing 602 pencil–
“Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed,” but God knows
I’m in no hurry, like Robert Frost’s line in “Birches”:
“Earth’s the right place for love: / I don’t know where
it’s likely to go better,” even though I believe
Jesus’s intended words to his apostles–
“In my Father’s house are many mansions:
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you”–
words preachers understand
to mean Heaven, but maybe
heaven, lower case, on earth.
After all, consider the swaddled baby,
a feed trough of hay fluffed comfy by his mother,
her husband and sheepherders and magi gathered
to the scene–the beginning, and if this couldn’t be heaven,
then why baseball and Trina, Australian shepherd dogs,
and all those cast out lepers and publicans
and sensuous women tucked at the grownup Jesus’s feet,
and that woman caught in adultery and rescued,
adoring her savior with costly oil of anointment,
her long, dark hair let down to bathe his feet,
tears of gratitude for the only man ever to desire her
only with his eyes, the touch of his palm upon her cheek.
And yes, the blind from birth granted to see this world,
and the crippled commanded to rise and walk–
dirt path, fallow field, desert and dark woods day by day,
no consideration for streets of gold, pearly gates
swung shut against weather remembered, how it feels
against skin. And my friends gathered around the tables,
City Light Community Ministries, filling their bellies,
even heaping seconds, and Wednesdays a sack of
selected groceries, know here is the right place for respite
and raucous laughter and teasing–“So, Bob, you think
you’re Jesus with those sandals?” What I think, what I know,
is here, now, this huddle of pals cast out, displaced together,
what we know Jesus knew, know he’s sitting at each table
breaking bread, sharing that cup–his broken body, his blood
poured out–dust to dust, blood soaking into the sand for us,
for us to sift through our fingers, lift, be healed.
And listen, you know I have no credentials as a preacher,
biblical scholar, but . . . didn’t Jesus bring Lazarus back
to our tangible world, and also those “sleeping” children,
their wailing parents, Jesus now understanding
what it means human, this love, not abstract,
and Jesus given the choice to leave the earth, came back.
Merwin, W. S. “Only Now.” Garden Time: Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2016, p. 52.
Frost, Robert. “Birches.” The Road Not Taken: A Selection of Robert Frost’s Poems, Henry Holt and Company, 1977, pp. 107-08.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: If its were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2, KJV)