In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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It’s so simple, really,
the tenderness we need
there is no place it does not live,
and we seek it
and we flail and hurl and fling
ourselves toward the brass ring of it,
as if it were a narrow chance,
a shining and unlikely prize. . . .
It is hard to pinch the air
between our fingers, but we are determined.
It is hard to survive by denying
ourselves, but we are accustomed.
It is hard to live inside the flawed
and gritty chambers we
believe ourselves to be,
but we have strapped our bodies in,
we watch our lives through airplane windows,
small and dim and scarred,
and even so, life noses up,
rolling before us
like a black dog,
its brown eyes steady as the sun,
its belly in the air, asking for touch.
In the thawed and startled city,
in the center of the stream,
the white foam journeying so faithfully
around the stones and complicated roots
isn’t clean —
still, the stems and spoiled leaves
wave gaily up in their decay,
the slimy moss grows slick as sex,
the bare trees hold aloft
the nudity of sky;
last winter’s dried-up leaves, which had believed
all movement lost to them,
skip a little now, on the path.
You notice you are hungry, though not urgently.
You notice an old Chinese man on a bicycle:
how beautiful his face.
Also the bumblebee jogger in his yellow
T-shirt, tight black shorts,
the women striding with their small
the child wavering on skates,
each of her kneepads a smiley face,
and the several million ants
massed like a pile of spilled chocolate sprinkles
around the open mouth of the lost
You are not crying about anything.
You are not even stopping yourself
from crying about anything.
Motionless in their red robes,
the robins meditate like monks.
A German shepherd, belly fringed
with tiny drips, squats shitting on the path.
The endless water thanks its endless
current, lucky as your life.
Ruth L. Schwartz