“First, you must suffer for a thousand years.
Then you must renounce suffering
and dedicate yourself to joy.”
~ Richard Jones, “On Living”
The hour is late, or the hour
begins all over again. The quiet
gives way to clamor, to one
request then another; a little fire
to put out, some flood to staunch.
Ripped hems to stitch, a pot to boil.
You scrape leavings into the compost
bin, soap and rinse plates under cold
running water. The rule has always been
duty first, pleasure later. When does
obligation loll back in its chair, eyes
closed, drool at the corners of its mouth,
fed and finally satisfied? Can you
take off your shoes, tiptoe away, slip
into a hammock in the garden? Whenever
a curtain is drawn around any hard-won
solitude, it still feels so much harder
to keep inside it than to break
the spell. Winter is always coming,
and the mice can’t stop carrying away
the corn. In every gold-flecked bell
that flowers, an agitation of wings.
The dung beetle climbs out of the corpse
flower’s rotting inflorescence, hefting
panniers of spores. And there are so many
sums to reconcile, columns to fill with ink,
ledgers to put in order. But one could stop
to admire the cricket’s earnest if disjointed
music, the late pulsing flight of fireflies;
a squirrel uncertain, twitching in the middle
of the path, temporarily distracted by nothing more
than bars of honey-colored sunlight in the trees.