“The purpose of life is to be defeated
by greater and greater things.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Zirconia, the jeweler says, not even blinking.
You get the feeling most of the heirloom jewelry you’ve brought,
xanthic in its drab velvet pouch, has mostly sentimental
worth. You slip them back into your purse, a little shame-faced.
Vacancy signs flap in the wind as you exit into the street,
unease following; as if it’s you and your life that’s been appraised, not
the assortment of gold chains, brooches, earrings and rings, pearls
set in triads: your mother’s gifts when last you parted from her.
Remembering what Rilke said in the clutch of letters he wrote,
quelling that young poet’s anxieties— oh what you’d give for antidote to
panic— Do not draw too hasty conclusions from what happens to you….
Otherwise, you start to look accusingly (that is, morally) upon your past.
No one you know speaks openly of their difficulties, or if they have the same
morbid fears as you: and yet, how could they never have been in such throes?
Luck as elusive as light, as exceptional as faith. Meanwhile, I’ve
kept believing in the wages of hard work: that I’ve not been forgotten,
just unintentionally overlooked— pawn on the checkered board,
inching my way through obstacles, pausing often to weep and reflect.
Haven’t I done all I could to ensure not just my own happiness?
Guilt is exquisite— every mother’s secret, priceless raiment.
From year to year as I’ve drawn up figures on my ledger,
each accrual comes with its corresponding page of more rapid
disbursals. Is this what you mean when you speak of being over-
come by larger and larger things? But I am so tired tonight;
benighted, belittled by what comes to me and tells me is my fate.
All I want is sometimes to not have to plead or struggle so much.