Never before has life spoken to me in such terms.
“I have taken your beloved but left in his place
this bend branch crop of golden peaches.”
What am I to make of such animal fraudulence
as squares the life of peaches with the peach of his life?
This is fairy ciphering such as toys in changelings,
the reckoning of cats that sets mouse guts at the door,
Adonai splitting winnings, refurnishing Job in kind.
Peaches as man-gold, quittance for the taken husband,
and a Nature that can’t read irony in its wind-borne
seed, some lit upon fertile ground and no difference
in opinion for the most, broken on rock. Its viral skill
surrogating our cells. Its bacterial nose for opportunity.
Its epochs of extinction articulated as stones. So clambers
wisdom on its elbows onto natural selection’s mud flat.
If only life had turned him out like dandelion fluff—
by the hundreds, the thousands—out in the abundance
of mushroom spore, seahorse fry, ghost moth eggs.
If only, slipping through fingers of a breeze or tumbling
in riffles down a neat streamlet, some expression of him
had found even five happy crèches cobbled, cradling
life, and in one of those lived it out as do millions
of brutes of lesser spine and no conscience at all. But!
Survival favors the vandal over the charitable mind.
I did take those peaches, baskets, bowls of them.
I’ll take all the peaches, whenever they come,
as the trees’ pink buds outwit frost’s flower.
All breath rushing past my ears, releasing
depleted moments then luring to the blood
some skittish future that may bolt suddenly
in any direction, or even drop dead at once;
all music drifting through that one door he said
we cannot shut; all water falling loose in braids
down cut banks or in single, see-through plaits
from a household faucet—I accept these.
The hazards innate in good fortune, and every
blackguard revelation lurking like a highwayman
in the poorly lit bad turn—I’ll take it all, freely.
But be clear: nothing this world offers can requite.
The cosmos, taken whole? Too dirt poor to repay
for stealing that voice from this ear, that warmth
from this skin, those thoughts from lively immingle
with mine. It has no coin of value to bargain for
its own relief from ataxia, not one spark of literate
wit to detect the increase suspended in love’s physics,
instead guarding jealously a relic wealth—entropy’s
coals, that scorch and ruin even where there is no air.
So yes I’ll take what suits for the years to come
living on a rough-cut tract empty only of him
but won’t accept payoff, even one so juicy.
I’ll comb instead the untidy, pound-surf beach
where creation’s breakers cough up the world.
I’ll collect such raw and indefinite stuff as rides
ashore from cosmic shipwrecks, like a loved one’s
early loss. On a liminal strand I’ll frame a shack,
a place for sleep and toy for breezes off the deep.
I’ll make study of flotsam and half-formed idioms
rumoring at the tip of calamities’ trilling tongues
and tinker them into surfeits of seeing, of giving
rise to, of rejoining. He taught me it—his craft
of tracing an event chain-linking toward certain
end, and placing a finger—lightly!—at a point
where fixed fate may be teased apart into radicles
of possibility. It could not be done for him, Havoc,
that broken old god, having had its haywire way,
but he could coax increase out of its mystery.
Nature and its shades in man harrowed him for it.
Nature got one thing right. It takes a few million
of anything to make a stitch of headway. But by nature,
Nature is fourth world. Left to itself it suffers on, content
to chance its mites on cutthroat games of tooth on tooth
or random genetic gaffes that might become vogue.
So, excess, but not an embarrassment of peaches.
Creature quid pro quo lacks the edge to chisel
through the fettering that drags on life’s step.
Rather, affluence to slacken the second law’s
harpy hooks in flesh and flower, and to fortify
the civilizing urge. And beyond common wealth,
a growing exchange in open-ended language,
inventive, animating, and of coat-and-cloak
recklessness of mind, the doing for others
what they in wildest dreams may pray be done,
could they but wonder how life might look
should it form skin-edge off their own images.
Watch, world with half-lit eyes, and wake.
©2018 Patricia G. Karamesines