Panes of color, edges like stained
glass, wisps of wildflowers growing in rubble

but pretty in the sun; feathered signatures
of minor creatures, their comings and goings
more subtle than many with more

proper names— I confess,
these were some of the lessons I taught

my own when they were young:
the moon swinging low over pine branches,
lake water glinting like mercury or granite,
flames crowning the ends of bushes along the path.

Did I set too much store by the tiger
swallowtail basking in the sun,
by the whiff of scent arising from beds
in the herb garden at dusk?

What use, what use in this hard-edged world?

Perhaps I fashioned paltry arms,
gave them words not strong enough to make
what they needed most come back—

The bird enters the cage.
Hands pass over it, then the red and gold
bandanna. You come back,
you have to come back.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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  1. I wonder this every day. But really I think we wildly overestimate both our agency and our power with them. They grow as they grow and learn the world as they learn it: we’re just one chip in the kaleidoscope, and most of what we teach, we teach willy-nilly by example.

    I know, it’s a poem, not a treatise :-) And a wonderful one. Those last lines make me ache.


  2. What use, what use in this hard-edged world?/…Perhaps I fashioned paltry arms,/ gave them words not strong enough to make/ what they needed most come back—


    There are no lessons deep enough, clear enough,
    that they could hold on to or use to decipher,
    or understand, or even to respond: Of what use?

    Of what use are murmuring creeks that turn
    blue when they flow into the river’s mouth
    as it meanders to an open sea, itself a tributary

    to all that is deep and dark and dangerous
    in these untamed oceans, beginnings and ends
    of life, the vast expanse of all our explorations.

    What does it matter that the moon swings low
    over pine branches, or that the urgent calls
    to trek back to forgotten origins are inexorable?

    You can only counsel them enough of beauty,
    because this earth makes it more often an omen
    of regrets, or even an augury of faithless betrayal .

    When the words you lisped as they turned
    somnolent in your arms come back to haunt them,
    they will rush back to you and pray for strength.

    When that time comes, do not mumble an apology,
    because this has never been needed nor accepted.

    —Albert B. Casuga


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