(after Adam Zagajewski)
And don’t we all want a second life
in order to process the first one?
Don’t we all want a second childhood
refunded at the end of days?
My mother said, You’ll regret this for the rest of your life. I have.
My father said, Never too late to take over the business. It is.
My sister said, You betrayed me by running for the competition. I did.
My brother said, This trouble is partly your fault. It is.
My grandfather said, Wish I could live long enough to see what you become. He couldn’t.
My grandmother said, Wish I could live long enough to see you heal. She did.
When I was a metaphysician, I roundly criticized my students
for writing about their families. And now, I’m almost out of ideas,
except this one: write about family.
I eschewed elegies when I was young. Now, that’s all I write –
letters to family and friends with no conceivable forwarding address.
And yet… the sun continues to blue the atmosphere and green the trees…
and will until the Milky Way collides with Andromeda in a pyrotechnics
best seen from a parallel universe.
And yet…the green snake continues to shock me in the garden…
if not the bellwether salamanders, fireflies, bobolinks.
And yet…life is as gorgeous and ravenous as it always was…
and still there is no consolation.
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Neil Shepard’s most recent book is How It Is: Selected Poems (2018, Salmon Poetry), and his recent poems appear in Manhattan Review, Massachusetts Review, Vox Populi, and elsewhere. He splits his time between Vermont and NYC, where he teaches poetry workshops at Poets House.
Photo credit: Lynn Saville