After suffering

“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.


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