ONCE BORN

One does not discard a gift lightly.
You take the whole package,
The whole estate -
Ribbons, trees, cats, and refuse,
Houses, fireflies, snow, and quicksand.
Friendly trespassers
And malicious caretakers.

It is a question of environment,
A bell jar in a larger exhibition,
Disposable in the larger scheme of things
But no less precious for that.

Here is the ridge where the sun set pink and gold last week,
And over there my mother sat with me when I cried.
Deep in the woods is where I first smelled pine,
And at the front gate my father built a snowman.

The house is full of moldy photographs -
Not too many relatives left.
But I drove into town the other day
And stood in line with a lot of nervous people
To see a movie about reality.

On the way home my car broke down,
And I walked the rest of the way into a gray sunset,
Remembering how my mother picked at trifles
And my father hated her.

In high school my friend John died of cancer,
He had shiny brown hair and kind eyes.
Another friend married an alcoholic
And her life careened into chaos.

My sister has forgotten me - she is too busy
Preaching about faith, hope, and charity.
It is strange how these old wounds ache
As the leaves in the trees and bushes settle
And hang still in the evening.

It is quiet at home and cheery with lamplight.
I build a fire, and watch with satisfaction
As the paper catches, then the twigs and sticks,
And the logs absorb the flames and return warmth.
Something works.

Tomorrow I'll get the car fixed.

- Sally Clay
January 12, 1989

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