What Do you Mean, Praise?
Yes, we could die tomorrow.
A two-car crash, a second’s misjudging of speed.
Another plane might ram our woods. Anthrax
could do it, a heart attack, cancer, even a stupid
fall down the back stairs. But for now we’re staying,
counting on this burdened world to go right on
budding up next year’s leaves. I need to know
how to praise what keeps on trying, sun gifting
rooms with color after days of gray, streams
talking rain after August’s silence of drought.
Or what I don’t notice, like the taste of air,
the way my lungs know exactly how to breathe.
Or the friend I’d thought I’d lost, whom I feel
singing in my own songs. How even in grief
I remember her laugh, and savor my hunger
as onions and mushrooms sizzle on the stove,
reminding my body of a cook no longer here.
Haven’t we always been in line
for some kind of ending? It’s enough for now
that our son’s on the phone, telling us today’s
griefs, yesterday’s joys. What matters is to tug
lightly on the thin line of his voice, stretch it
over the hills and woods — what pulls between us
will not break. This must be what praise is, singing
the young men our bodies began, who go on
in this world with their wives, girls, boys,
the mothers and fathers who go on in us, too,
and ancestors we never knew who dwell unsuspected
in our corpuscles and ganglions, smiling us,
weeping us, walking with us all our lives long.
Reprinted from The Book of Ga (see Reviews) and The Comstock Review, vol. 16 #1.
Ann died on August 28, 2003. She is survived by her husband, Robert.