Archive for March, 2016

The sun shone as it had to

March 16, 2016

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Just before 4 pm on a Tuesday, 1/2 a mile away from where I sat on a bench warmed by the late winter sun, the buds of spring quivered on the edge of bloom and a woman died in a head-on crash.  The sonic boom, the metallic grating that spoke of some large object moving in a manner it had not been designed to do, signaled something gone horribly wrong.  No more than five minutes later, the screaming sirens converged.

I feel as a witness might, connected by aural proximity and a realization, always lurking but at such moments close to the surface, that death can arrive anytime, even on a bright blue afternoon on a clear stretch of road with shopping bags in the trunk, a sense of errands accomplished, and an anticipation of someone waiting at home with whom to share the day’s stories.

“We are survivors,” I tell my cat George as we’ve weathered the lonely winter missing our friend Bandit, killed only 500 yards down the same, dangerous road.  In this act, there lies no edification.  At times, even the burgeoning beauty of the natural world seems an affront to our sorrow.  But maybe our responsibility to the dead is to drink as deeply as we can of all that we too will leave behind at some impossibly beautiful hour.


the saucer magnolia blooming outside my front door’