Let No Charitable Hope
Now let no charitable hope
Confuse my mind with images
Of eagle and of antelope:
I am in nature none of these.
I was, being human, born alone;
I am, being woman, hard beset;
I live by squeezing from a stone
The little nourishment I get.
In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.
Maybe a dog I loved best will limp
Up the street and fall at my feet,
Not really hurt, just tired. “Smoky,”
I cry, and in crying send the sparrows
In the tree a limb higher. “I missed you,
I really missed you. Where did you go?”
I peel back his eyelids and view
An adventure—oh, how he dodged cars
And dipped his tired paws in puddles, how
He slept in ditches and bit a tribe of fleas
Camping in his fur. I see him topple
A garbage can and a rat with long whiskers
Run between his feet. I see him living
With a kind old woman by a railroad.
She ate a lot of stew, and shared her stew,
Until her mean son drove her away,
Leaving Smoky to wag his tail in dust.
“Oh, Smoky,” I sob. I scan
The full story in his eyes. I see my dog
Sniffing the air, his nostrils flaring
For the scent of home, my home
With newspapers piled up on the roof
And duct tape on the broken front window.
Now my dog’s collapsed at my feet.
“You’re home,” I say to Smoky,
“And you’re never going to leave again.”
True, our house appears abandoned
Ever since Dad left and left an oil stain on the drive.
But I’m here in this house of ours,
My mother and little brother are here,
And aren’t those daffodils below the window
A sign of spring? I hug my dog,
Who disappeared when I was nine.
Now I’m twelve, a dodger of cars,
An ambler of ditch banks. When I bend
Over and bring him into my arms,
What do I feel but the weight of fur
And three lost years.
What’s the use
and diffuse as hope—
of making do,
of going on:
what isn’t in
the always tabled
righting of the present.
Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla
From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—
But we have only begun
to love the earth.
We have only begun
to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
—we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.