One spring my mother and I collected
long twigs and put them in an empty tin can
to make a tree on which to hang Easter eggs—
real ones, which had been emptied of life
and dyed bright chemical colors (yellow, orange
We put water in the can to weigh it down,
and after a few weeks buds pushed out
on the branches: soon leaves unfurled.
It was a paschal mystery, Aaron's staff in the ark
of the covenant that was our front porch.
After a while the tin rusted,
the water turned blood-red, the green leaves
withered and we solemnly placed the dead
branches by the edge of the road.
I am telling you this story because
it is autumn as I write this and I cannot
tell if your eyes (into which I only
occasionally look) are old or new.
I think they are in that narrow place;
the moment just before everything
changes, and the very fact that we exist
at all seems a miracle beyond reckoning,
far lovelier than a lilac gently resting
against an empty green eggshell.
Please don't imagine yourself anywhere
that isn't fragile or barely real, don't
ever think for a moment that you are too
young or too old to be alive. I am not sure
if this life is impossibly beautiful because
it happened or impossibly tragic for the same reason,
but I do know it is impossible, and I don't think
I should have to choose.