This poem appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe now, go here.
Call no man happy till he is dead.
There were the winters—first, it seemed—lined up
In memory. The winters when old people
Began to die, the ones where snow would disrupt
Tickets to warmer places, like a peephole
On some more sensual world, suddenly stuffed shut.
The winters when such white-outs never came
And his wife felt the fog and wind in the gut,
As harbingers that all our human games
Would sink beneath a deluge sent by gods.
The January when his brother’s heart
Seizured beneath the surgeon’s knife; the plod
Of weeks his sister lay in bed, apart
From everyone, refused to hold her children,
And woke again, again each night to cry
That no one loved her.
But, the past was filled in
No less by seasons like a mellow sigh,
Entire days where body seemed set by,
So governed was his thought by this or that
Idea; or others, when it mounted high,
Warmed in the womblike waters, or on flat
Sands sunned to sleep.
They all resided, deep
Within the gathering archives of time’s passing,
And seemed to promise fullness. Should he weep
At the calculus of pains? Or take the lasting
Imprints of what time takes for solitary gifts?
He knew, in fact, from what he’d read of Solon,
He was a pulse too soon to gauge the drift
Of his close-written histories. He couldn’t know on
What note they’d finish; but, he saw their moving—
Even now, as he swept the porch of green
Clippings and breathed their humid scent—their moving
Toward that last form which shows what a life means.