In Gratitude for Talk

for John and Joe

The blue-grey steeples of the pines,
the lake’s cold oval: our perception of these shapes
makes us particularly human.
Like tourists living on the shore
of what really matters, we can lean back
and say “Those clouds are marble quarries,”
or, “Life would be much simpler
if people were like birds.”
And sometimes, between the thick brushstrokes
of what we plan to see,
we glimpse the thing itself:
the water sliding under its description.

Our broad disagreement
on the nature of god
must make him very happy
when he returns, late at night,
to eavesdrop from the dark just off the porch–
to us, tossing marked cards at
an imaginary hat,
and telling stories to stay warm:
how the sparrows got into the stars
and ate them up like breadcrumbs,
or about the man who was so perverse
he ended each relationship
just when it was perfect.

If there’s no future in the dark
I think that it increases
the value of just sitting here,
getting drunk on talk.
You can’t ignore the dark, for god’s sake
or argue against faith.
The porch swing creaks its old tune,
“Maybe, Maybe Not”,
and discussion ends like this–
each voice shoving off into the silence
like men in boats;
as if they were certain of their fates,
or had chosen their indifference.
But now the silence has a different shape.