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After toweling off from an early swim and breakfast on the lanai-
Eggs benedict and grapefruit juice with chilled orange slices blotting the morning paper-
The brassy sunlight blowing slow and woozy as it did in days gone by,
Those lakeshore summers filled with rope swings and dockside secrets, first loves and lonely kayaks in the moonlight, cookouts and the obligatory annual conspiratorial caper
Against one of the oldsters concluding in mild embarrassment, the whispered plot always thwarted,
Mothers and fathers inevitably gathered on front lawns to clap and laugh at their sheepish children’s comeuppance,
Affirming that the youngsters’ time was not yet come, that they themselves were not so dotty as reported,
I run my fingers across my head grown suddenly bald again and wonder how it happens
I’m now as old as they were then. Older, maybe. Our boys are nearly grown and still asleep.
Bless them, they stay up all hours texting girls back home, a thousand miles away. My wife
Is reading D.H. Lawrence and says she wants to get a tattoo. She says that I’m not “deep,”
And maybe she’s right. I do my work (and I do pretty well), keep fit, and try to shape this life
Of choice and chance and change into something pleasant. Is it so bad to try to be content?
Is it so very dreadful to forgive the world the wounds that it delivers? I don’t know…

Later on, there will, of course, be storms: it’s Florida. Already, strong headland winds–are bent
Toward us. Gusts send cypressfuls of birds scattering from hiding places. Where do–they go?
Where do we go? The summer I was seventeen, about a week before I had to leave–for college,
I woke up around three o’clock and scumbled barefoot through the damp grass–down to the lake,
The fog so thick I blindly breathed it in. My feet moved almost without my–knowledge,
Long habit being like a trance, and at the ruined wooden bridge a young man-and –no mistake-
Came out of nowhere: mid-twenties, unshaven face furious with purpose, each fiery–eye a star.

Then he was gone. And yet, years later, he loops through memory, an earworm whose –repetitions go on and on and on.
Yesterday morning a mockingbird came in the sliding door and wouldn’t leave. It –didn’t even budge when I used the broom to shoo it out, so I gave up and sat down
–and started browsing some books my wife brought on the trip-a bunch of poetry –in languages I don’t understand, but somehow lovely anyway: Non omnis moriar,
I mumbled to myself, not knowing what it meant, and J’ai plus des souvenirs que si –j’avais mille ans.

Ryan Wilson‘s books are The Stranger World (Measure), How to Think Like a Poet (Wiseblood), and Proteus Bound: Selected Translations (Franciscan). Editor in chief of Literary Matters, he teaches at the Catholic University of America.




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