After three days and night of rich food
and late talk in overheated rooms,
of walks between mounds of garbage
and human forms bedded down for the night
under rags, I come back to my dooryard,
to my own wooden step.
The last red leaves fall to the ground
and frost has blackened the herbs and asters
that grew beside the porch. The air
is still and cool, and the withered grass
lies flat in the field. A nuthatch spirals
down the rough trunk of the tree.
At the Cloisters I indulged in piety
while gazing at a painted lindenwood Pietà—
across her knees; but when a man stepped close
under the tasseled awning of the hotel,
asking for “a quarter for someone
down on his luck,” I quickly turned my back.
Now I hear tiny bits of bark and moss
break off under the bird’s beak and claw,
and fall onto already-fallen leaves.
“Do you love me?” said Christ to his disciple.
“Lord, you know
that I love you.”
“Then feed my sheep.”