Wednesday, November 1, 2006

SAMHAIN

And you, in love with what
your life could become, days planned
to afford the best results, sit still
and take no action, drifting
like water-logged wood on a rippling tide
too weak to cast you up on land or carry you
out to sea. Misfits from the apartments,
holding out promises of violent ends
and eccentric gifts, pass in the night,
seeking someone who saw them do something
once upon a time. They are our dead,
returned to work us mischief, calling
our nicknames into drains penetrating hills
to route the run-off away from lawns
in which no one, not even a pet,
is ever buried. Death is always elsewhere
in the suburbs, and we gather at the grave
to mourn an older way of life
becoming legendary, a time when life
was judged by what was done by its end
and credit extended into infinity
was all but unheard of. At least among our set.

Samhain was awash with heavy rains.
Staying inside was deemed salubrious
even if it meant neglecting to rake the leaves
or take out the garbage. Distant hammering
could be heard, the way bonfires could
sometimes be glimpsed on hillsides you climbed,
blazes changing location as you moved
higher and higher to reach the clearing
or secret cemetery. Will-o-the-wisps,
now here, now gone, suggestive of all the glimpses
that once seemed to offer knowledge, ripe fruit,
full honeycombs, dart ahead around the bend
of years and miles and selves. We see
how out of season love can be,
how inauthentic our pretensions to peace of mind
and smiling accord among all the onlookers,
each content to be only himself, herself
forever. Be wary of rituals, kid,
even though you can't live without them,
and, in effect, your participation
was assumed before you drew your first breath,
shaved your chin or legs, put on make-up or cologne.

In the teeth of the wind there is only rain
and even that is tainted by the long sigh of parting
or meeting since, either way, you must focus
on time and what it means to you, how you lose it
whether you use it or not -- as robins
might reflect after returning to find the tree
that once housed so fine a nest struck by lightning.

In that galvanic flash can be seen
all we could ever hope to know about loss
and the strength needed to bear it. Otherwise,
there would be no place for the dead, no memory,
and the strolling players would find no shelter
among us, but must risk the elements
on the bare hillside amidst stumps and ashen husks.

Meet me, please, at the covered bridge next Halloween,
wearing the deathmask of your favorite poet.
--DB, 1997

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