Retired ballerinas on winter afternoons walking their dogs in Central Park West (or their cats on leashes— the cats themselves old highwire artists) The ballerinas leap and pirouette through Columbus Circle while winos on park benches (laid back like drunken Goudonovs) hear the taxis trumpet together like horsemen of the apocalypse in the dusk of the gods It is the final witching hour when swains are full of swan songs And all return through the dark dusk to their bright cells in glass highrises or sit down to oval cigarettes and cakes in the Russian Tea Room or climb four flights to back rooms in Westside brownstones where faded playbill photos fall peeling from their frames like last year’s autumn leaves
What you have not done
is without error. What you
have not said is beyond contradiction.
What you understand of God
was yesterday. Today a bicycle
waits, chained to a bench.
The success of this afternoon’s nap
is the dream of lifting seven boxes,
your week, sealed with clear tape.
They stack, three to a column,
with the seventh like a capstone.
What you do not know they contain.
Sometimes a child will stare out of a window
for a moment or an hour—deciphering
the future from a dusky summer sky.
Does he imagine that some wisp of cloud
reveals the signature of things to come?
Or that the world’s a book we learn to translate?
And sometimes a girl stands naked by a mirror
imagining beauty in a stranger’s eyes
finding a place where fear leads to desire.
For what is prophecy but the first inkling
of what we ourselves must call into being?
The call need not be large. No voice in thunder.
It’s not so much what’s spoken as what’s heard—
and recognized, of course. The gift is listening
and hearing what is only meant for you.
Life has its mysteries, annunciations,
and some must wear a crown of thorns. I found
my Via Dolorosa in your love.
And sometimes we proceed by prophecy,
or not at all—even if only to know
what destiny requires us to renounce.
O Lord of indirection and ellipses,
ignore our prayers. Deliver us from distraction.
Slow our heartbeat to a cricket’s call.
In the green torpor of the afternoon,
bless us with ennui and quietude.
And grant us only what we fear, so that
Underneath the murmur of the wasp
we hear the dry grass bending in the wind
and the spider’s silken whisper from its web.