Again the February hearts strung about
in shapes that defy physiology: the red
too red, curves too curved, the slotted
absence too full of white to show what
absence really is. This is the morning
of no defense. You’ve opened the parakeet’s
cage and let her fly around, crapping
where she wants. This is the day
the dog gets a bath, her fleas poisoned
and washed away, your beige carpet cleaned.
This is a moring for biding time,
newspaper filler read column by column
as you line the cage. How, for instance,
one family has tended its sacred fire
for 1,128 years—a period into which
you must factor murder, pestilence, and
infertility; in which you must take account of
crop failure, war, and laziness. Think of
the morning you had a cough and the air
was chill at the temple, or when you drank
too much the night before and god herself
drummed her seven hands upon your head,
or imagine a day like this one, awaiting
test results, when finally a voice
like moonlight cradling snow tells us
the baby inside my wife has died.
This is the day the plants need watering.
We’ll do it stiff-legged, automatic-thinking
the earth reels beneath us as it must
beneath the fainting goats we read about,
those fearful ones who grow rigid and collapse
upon hearing any distant shriek. But this
is a morning to keep the flame. Lay down
the lance and shield, put off our armor.
Unsaddle the tawny horse, let him find his way.