On the night you died I had a dream.


I was walking a road, through a forest.
A grotesque, waxing moon made the crushed stone,
and faintly sparkling stonedust, moon white.
The road was full of ruts and dips, yet, still,
embedded stones made it smooth like snake skin;
smooth for a road that should never be paved.


I came upon my mule, lying on its
side, still breathing. No cuts or abrasions
made obvious, I knew she lay dying.
Starting between her ears, I ran my hand
down the length of her spine, down the slope
made deep by my too-heavy saddle.


She had carried me since my birth, her hooves
thick and cracked, like an old woman’s toenails.
My trembling hands slid across the grate
of her ribs where my legs once held so tight.
Kneeling down on stones the pain increased then
relaxed as I laid my head on her neck.


Could she hear me praying, my voice so weak,
my breathing slowed down to match hers, could she?
Her breathing, clumsy, stopped; some fantastic
machine, with accordion bellows
and huge exposed gears, lurching to a halt.
I kissed her forehead then quickly turned away.


The waxing moon, no longer grotesque,
lighted the spaces between the shadows.
I sat on a fallen tree, watched the moon rise
almost directly above my head, bright,
surrounded by a halo, triumphant.
I saw the slow, beautiful ascension.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 16 Number 4, on page 35
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