I Wish One Word
of the 171,476 in the English language was useful
in describing us: haphazard maybe, maybe destined,
unfolded like a leaf in spring, (the strength of which,
opening, cannot be doubted),
peripatetic, a bumblebee’s flight, a damselfly’s dancing
above water in sunlight, purposeful as a long line of ants
toward food, or frantic as them carrying away eggs
from an uncovered nest.
I do not mean to strand you in ambiguity,
or cheer my own ignorance, or ask you
to quote scripture, or remind me how often
I hide from unpleasant facts.
I acknowledge the Sufi proverb:
A pebble is small,
but what can you see
if you hold it in front of your eye?
And perhaps, if we cannot encompass our meaning,
the only help is an odd tenderness
toward ourselves, an unfounded trust
in our imperfect knowing.
I’ve misunderstood the word “touchstone” for years,
believed it was a talisman of comfort, not a test,
something to hold on to, like a compass for a lost hiker,
the spot a ballerina fixes her eyes upon
as she spins. Mine was a mentor in my self-destructive years,
an unlikely, bellowing, uncommonly generous man
unsteady enough to drink himself to death.
He left a wife and three sons, but had held steady for me.
It was an unresolved loneliness in him, I think,
a lack of touch I sometimes feel in me,
as though I cut myself loose from earth
and have been falling upward ever since.