They made it clear from the beginning–
you were only borrowing it for a while,
and have to surrender it eventually,
like an umbrella from the neighbors after the rain.
Some, inclined to science and a mild form of pontification,
guessed life to be most likely linear, one straight path
from one moment to another, or crooked,
depending on which religion you’re looking from, and even concentric also,
like the growth of a tree’s bark, the future
containing the past in small circular hearts.
It was the really concerned ones, willing to be honest,
your mother most probably, or cousin, who said
happiness was hard to come by,
but attainable and never-ending and short.
What they didn’t tell you was that the sky overhead
was already gathering around the horizon and beautiful forever,
the grass underfoot growing around your feet
from graves. Of course you don’t have to know why.
You can always pray and sleep under trees.
What they didn’t tell you
was that you were given a body
weak to the hard elements but indestructible
as long as there was the soul chittering
like a cricket in the wide, boundless night field
outside your window, now apparently wet,
it having just rained, the neighbor’s umbrella
propped on your door, unreturned,
black with red polka dots, not your favorite color.
-- Arkaye Kierulf
Where they are exactly, no one knows.
It is enough that they lie somewhere,
slicing the darkness with their sharp sounds.
Far off, in the cities, people are making do
with light and music and wakefulness.
Here, it is not so different. Only here,
the fireflies are satisfied with their nature,
their flickering envy of stars.
The same is true of the bullfrog,
announcing its presence by the pond,
and of the waiting owl, wide-eyed
and dark-winged and silent in the tree.
But the crickets, weak and ready
for the taking, are the boldest,
frantic with their unlinear music
as if they want to be found, as if
each singular blade of grass contains a single note,
contributes to the grand monotone of the evening.
Troubled and sleepless, I step out to look for them,
flashlight in hand. But outside there is only
the unblemished night, alive with its occasions of light,
harsh sounds, and the unseen crickets, nearby
and far away, mocking the frog, the owl, me.
As if their chorus is both for death and deliverance,
or simply because the night would be too silent
without their sacrifice. Eventually, they would
be discovered. Maybe not tonight, and maybe not
by me. This is the call of both the wild
and the human: our constant search for sources,
answers. Then again, there is the question
of God, our natural need to be heard, forgiven,
as these crickets–-noisy but perhaps
full of prayer, perhaps already redeemed.
-- Joel M. Toledo