After Reading Dante’s Paradiso
We live in a heaven we take great pains to avoid.
Shielding our cheeks from a winter sky’s
chilled fur, we hunch against the brush of air
that has rushed gloriously everywhere. We listen
into our phones so as not to be pierced
by arias in the pines. Clench worry’s hands
to keep a woodpecker’s drumming
from entering our bones. Stay separate.
Refuse to sail a cloud into evening’s gold.
I circle your neighborhood. You switch on your motor
to cancel my hellos and drive by, tunnel-gazing
at the road. You will not allow yourself
to be distracted by a flock of red butterflies
that seem to have settled on the quince. You work
at not seeing the cherry trees’ candlelight parade.
Busy yourself steadying a tea tray on your head.
It’s hard not to look into each other’s eyes,
down wells of the water we daily draw up,
but bliss is trying to leach into our cells
from the sheer forces of nature and humanity.
Happiness can sprout in a moment, absurd
amid the gray towers strafed by centuries.
Don’t make a habit of paving over any space
where a tiny flower could pop or hold
your breath, so you can’t nose around
as easily as an old dog finds a neighborly scent
and comes upon another circle of delight.
from Another Circle of Delight