From Still-Water Days...

In the Distance

   In the distance someone is singing. 

               Pablo Neruda; tr. W. S. Merwin

Someone is always singing, especially at
night in farmlands when the drone of the day
mutes, or in sleeping suburban neighborhoods
when a barking dog breaks the silence.

The wind plays a part, stirring summer laden
branches to whisper together, or rain to clatter
against our windows, its song a sustained chant        
against drought, promising even more green.

This morning along the border of the local park,
the mallows have opened their mouths to sing
pink, fuchsia and white, their dark eyes focused
on the sun, faces nodding in the light breeze.

And someone is singing the blues from the din
of cities—distant singers unknown even to one
another. We must also heed the dissonant songs
from those sleepless neon streets.

What space separates us from someone singing?
What expanse must we traverse to find the singer
hidden among forgotten reeds, the one who dares
to try to translate the eddies of rivers between us?

How far away are those who need our love, their
distant songs wanting answer, reaching out to us
at dusk and dawn, echoing our own loneliness—
faintly calling for our antiphonal response?

Distant Music


    Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.
           
                    Edna St. Vincent Millay

Traveling on the wind distant music chiming 
from the coming ice-cream truck brings me 
good humor—almond-crunch-vanilla popsicle
laughter dripping down my chin those long 
gone summer evenings. 

I sit on our old stone steps, eagerly waiting
for the magic man to stop in front, open the 
small square door, let out a puff of frozen 
smoking air, and plunge his hand in to pull 
out any favorites we children clamor for.

Who are the others waiting with me in that 
kingdom lost to decades now, shadowy figures 
leaping on the edge of dusk? Childhood is the 
kingdom where nobody dies? For some that may 
be true, but sometimes they do die, you know— 

pets, parents, grandparents, even classmates
here one day, gone the next. Yet in the endless 
summers of that kingdom, ice-cream always 
comes to us on time, promising a treat we can 
savor before dark—before it can melt away.

Under Water