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Dawn sun glints off the dome
of a golden statue I never saw
in our garden before.
Not squat,
like my wife’s stone Buddha
snug in its niche on the gazebo,
but taut
with a kind of waking energy,
and life-sized for a man of my own height.
A breeze tosses the lilac’s leaves
until shadows crossing the figure’s skull
make it seem to blink.
An arm rises as though to clear
away a spider’s web.

I know it must be the extra midnight
dose of Chinese herbs lingering
in my system,
with the way first light runs wild below.
I know
it is a trick of muddled perception
But then the statue speaks,
scattering a cluster of crows
that gathers every morning at the fence line,
and turns tearful eyes
toward the place where they have flown.
All’s past amend, unchangeable.

This is the face of the aged
with a wisp of cloud
above his wrinkled brow, the darting
glance attuned to loss
and wary of any change,
the moustache rhyming with thin downturned lips.
He wants a bare,
wind-driven landscape
known to the depths of his soul
but finds himself in our lush profusion
of glory
bower, hollyhocks, coneflower,
rock rose, chaste tree, lavender,
everything in bloom and nothing native
to his startled, worried sight.

I have been reading him again.
Just last month, the flawed
of his middle years,
last week the familiar elegies for Emma,
their faded passion flaming up
in the wake of her sudden death.
Perhaps the grief that set him
wandering after her
keeps him
adrift in time and space now.
He looks worn by more than years
and grief as the wind swirls.

Glancing into the dark
beyond me,
he finds what he came here for
and so do I. Once more
his arm lifts, a wave this time,
equal parts farewell and blessing.
So I move back to bed,
where my wife stirs in her sleep,
calling my name,
and I know we will soon be whispering
the strange
story of our night’s dreamings.

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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