You must desire Nothing.
—————Saint John of the Cross
Light glows off the drifts
like a child’s long gaze upwards.
Only the sky is heavy, a drum full
of laundry—white, reluctantly tumbling.
I don’t need to look out the window
to know how the corners of houses
give themselves away, like people
who’d do anything for love.
I don’t glance where the snow-shagged hemlocks
sag, like the arms of saints
who have given up in prayer.
All night I refrain from gazing
while snow gathers like a last recourse
and the stripped elm limbs
lift against a sky
that cannot help itself for falling.
I don’t ask for assurance. All day
I watch children jump into the drifts
as into fallen laundry, fill acres
with blank-faced angels,
the hugest possible wings.
How they can erase themselves
by how they mark the snow.
Now, clean white bandages keep dropping
from the eaves. The angel shadows
fill. No matter what I say,
snow is between us
and what we wanted to happen,
a distance that won’t let us
give ourselves away.
Who else can trust that distance
the way saints trusted the down-drift
of invisible light? Its arrival
so gradual that waiting kept its habit
long after they’d relinquished prayer.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.