“There is one and only one …”

So was your fortune told,
as the palm reader scanned
the past, the present
and future, and then went on
in the telling
of an inexplicable journey.


I see lines that cross,
that travel together
and seem to part again.

I see a large flock of birds
circling a single figure,
and somewhere nearby
a small burial is taking place,
with the sound of dirt
hitting a cardboard box.

And once more the lines converge,
are thickened with grieving
and unexplained departures.
I see a forest path; beside it
a waterfall, and someone
diving repeatedly into a pool.

I see a house, divided by many rooms.
Three children are searching
the hallways and opening doors;
they enter a smaller room
and vanish into another country.

I see honor and happiness there.

And you and I were together there,
waking and sleeping, speaking
the names we were given,
“… as if we did not know
each other well, but our souls did.”

I see how it all combines
and reassembles, completed in this
one unfailing image—a woman
telling fortunes, casting
the future in someone’s open palm:

“There is one and only one …”


The forest path is empty.

That house and its people,
the search and the children’s story,
dissolve to an open park
where someone is throwing a ball
at the root of a tree;
others, silent and grouped
at a distance, are keeping score.

And all these characters and scenes
are displaced by shadows
that loom and slowly clear …
In that improbable, fantastic place
I shall be planted somewhere
with trees and natural stones,
turned slowly round
in the hollow of obedient earth.

And you, awake in the world,
without a shadow and less
than human, your ghost children
driven before you
down the cobbled mazes—
mouth open,
cropped hair in a fiery light,
and your finally stricken heart,
wondering and amazed …


John Haines

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 12 Number 6, on page 43
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