If you came this way
And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. – T.S. Eliot (The Four Quartets)
The car stereo plays Jeremy Irons reading
Eliot's Little Gidding and I’m moved
to tears in summer morning traffic.
And that is what poetry is for. Driving
past malls and office parks on Ring 1,
Monday after a two-week holiday, death
is with me in the sunlight, shining
down through hours and eons on forests,
highways, the hoods of cars and my forearm.
There will be time for work, time
for the shopping. But what of the evening
with the photograph album?
A candle burns on a table on a winter morning
before dawn. Your dead friend waits
by the river where past and future meet
and snowdrops and hellebores plot
their slow way back from oblivion.
If we cannot move like this in time, all is lost.
Every woman I’ve ever been with eventually found me impossible.
For instance, there was that time Maggie wouldn’t take twenty dollars
while driving down Lyndale in her red Jeep. I threw it out the window.
“If you don’t want it,” I said, “I don’t want it either.”
She went back for it because twenty dollars was a lot of money in 1996.
Another woman told me I seemed like the kind of guy who needed
to spend a lot of time alone, and watching the evening news
was unusually important to me. When I finally managed to stay ten years
with the same woman, she said our relationship only worked
the way a cantilever bridge does: It takes a lot of anchoring
on one side or the whole thing comes crashing down.
Again today, I am reminded the world does not revolve around me
and count my breaths until I can hear birds in the yard,
see sky beyond the trees. I smell an impossible ocean,
and reach to touch the horizon in this almost life-sized world.
David de Young was born in Illinois and received a BA in English from Grinnell College. He
wrote about live music for many years in Minnesota, then moved to Finland in 2012 where he now lives as an expat with his wife and two daughters. More @daviddeyoung & daviddeyoung.com.