Before the Snake by Nathaniel Tarn
Sitting, facing the sun, eyes closed. I can hear the
sun. I can hear the bird life all around for miles.
It flies through us and around us, it takes up all
space, as if we were not there, as if we had never
interrupted this place. The birds move diorami-
cally through our heads, from ear to ear. What
are they doing, singing in this luminous fall. It is
marvelous to be so alone, the two of us, in this
garden desert. Forgotten, but remembering
ourselves as no one will ever remember us. The
space between the trees, the bare ground-sand
between them, you can see the land’s skin which
is so much home. We cannot buy or sell this
marvelous day. I can hear the sun and, within
the sun, the wind which comes out of the world’s
lungs from immeasurable depth; we catch only
a distant echo. Beyond the birds there are per-
sons carrying their names like great weights.
Just think: carrying X your whole life, or Y, or Z.
Carrying all that A and B and C around with you,
having to be A all the time, B, or C. Here you can
be the sun, the pine, the bird. You can be the
breathing. I can tell you, I think this may be
Eden. I think it is.
Carpe Demon by Lucie Brock-Broido
Where is your father whose eye you were the apple of?
Where are your mother’s parlor portieres, her slip-covered days, her petticoats?
In the orchard at the other end of time, you were just a child in ballet slippers,
Your first poodle skirt, your tortoiseshell barrettes. As the peach tree grew more
Scarce each day, you kept running out to try to tape the leaves back on their boughs.
Once, I caught you catch a pond of sunlight in your lap and when you stood,
The sunlight spilt; it could never follow you. Once, above the river,
You told me you were born to be a turtle, swimming down. Under the bridge
Now you take your meals where the thinnest creatures live at the end
Of the world. Carpe Demon, you told me just before you put down the phone
And drank the antifreeze. This year, the winter sky in Missouri is a kind of cold
The color of a turtle’s hood, a soup of dandelion, burdock root, and clay.
“Sometimes” by David Whyte
if you move carefully
through the forest
like the ones
in the old stories
who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,
to a place
where the only task
is to trouble you
but frightening requests
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
to stop what you
while you do it,
that can make
that have patiently
waited for you,
that have no right
to go away.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.