I remember a moment in fifth grade,
when it was announced
that Sister Bernardo,
who taught seventh grade,
There was this brief
eruption of joy that
we would not, ever,
have to endure
her legendary cruelty.
It was an utterly spontaneous, and
therefore uncontrollable, eruption
which collapsed almost
immediately into despair.
There stood, at the head
of the classroom,
Sister Mary Henry,
in all her indominable
forbiddenness, and we knew
that she had recorded the reaction
of each and every child
in her prodigious
and never-failing memory.
As luck would have it
I was born who I am,
propelled into wonder
and deep disturbance,
pushed from behind
by fear and tedium,
compelled by curiosity
to delve and burrow.
Shall I say my fate
has formed me,
or have I moved through Earth
not spellbound, but spellbinding?
No use complaining, no
point in shallow grievance.
Fate works not by force
Like me, the day resembles an empty vessel,
empty of all that radiates outward,
all that intends malice or desire,
that winks a hundred wishes onward,
holding only God accountable,
leaving any sense behind,
out where there is no boundary,
where edge melts into center,
where all becomes nothing,
where stellar wind washes light
from the first Nothing screamed aloud,
down to the yearning of stars to be born,
to the thin layer of life
astride the cosmos.
I do read your work, telling me
to be a decent sort, which politician
to love, which to despise,
how one kind of suffering
is better than another, or one
rude remark worse than another.
The ponderance presses relentlessly,
huge pendulous images of right thinking,
until I no longer feel I own my own
uncertainty, that my heart can so much as
break without first checking your litany.
Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.
Now I must be on my way or miss
the chance to do it again.
“There’s no time,” she said,
“Any moment now will be
the too-late moment.”
“Can’t we tell
ahead of time?” I said.
“Don’t be an idiot,” she said
“Well,” I said, “that certainly
narrows down the possibilities,
with idiot ruled out.”
“Now you’re just being a jerk.”
“What, that’s not allowed either?”