for Elfie Raymond

If it were not so bright,
Not so dark;
If there had been another hour,

Another storm,
Something to keep track of
Or something to hold at bay;


If there had been no bird
On the barest tree,
With one bitter crumb in its mouth,


One little speck;
If the honey surrounding that crumb
Had not been sweet,


If the evening had been less silent,
Humming one note
Without leaving any name,


Calling me to a field whose sickle moon
Made it clear
That nothing would speak;

If the way to the field
Had been less glorious,
A drop of dew beside a milkweed seed,

A ladybug scampering toward light,
And flowers on fire
Swaying among tall grasses—


A river of paper lanterns at dawn;
If the current did not carry
The scent of cyclamen,


Wild as grief
Spilling its horn of plenty,
Outlasting the final kiss of day.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 16 Number 2, on page 38
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