If no swan descends
§ § §
in a blinding glare of plumage,
drumming the air with deafening wings,
if the earth doesn't tremble
and rivers don't tumble uphill,
if my mother's crystal
Vase doesn't shatter
and no extinct species are sighted anew
and leaves of the city trees don't applaud
as you Zing me to the moon, starry tesseræ
cascading down my shoulders,
if we stay right here
on our aging Simmons Beautyrest,
dumped into the sag in the middle,
You don't need to strew rose petals
in my bath or set a band of Votive candles
flickering around the rim.
You don't need to invent a thrilling
new position, two dragonflies
mating on the wing. Honey,
you don't even have to wash up after work.
A little sweat and sunscreen
won't bother me.
Take off your boots, babe,
swing your thigh over mine. I like it
when you do the same old thing
in the same old way.
And then a few kisses, easy, loose,
like the ones we've been
kissing for a hundred years.
Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the dryer.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter's age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she's a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat ---
the one you never really liked --- will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you'll lose your keys,
your hair, and your memory. If your daughter
doesn't plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you'll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used --- appliance store for a pickup --- drug money.
The Buddha tells a story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But there's also a tiger below.
And two mice --- one white, one black --- scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the Vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here's the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you'll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles in a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You'll be lonely.
Oh, taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.
--- From Like a Beggar
©2014 Copper Canyon Press