First Snow and What Shouldn't Happen to a Dog
For Richard Modiano
It starts off innocently enough.
You angle your head upward
and see the shimmering curtain
and you think the aurora borealis
has so many ways of looking pretty
and soon you are chasing iridescence everywhere
pouncing on the patch of green here
sliding into home on the purple carpet there.
You’re going all Martha Graham on the landscape.
It’s giddiness beyond giddiness,
and it is your birthright to
chase it with abandon when you
must make the best of abandonment.
And just as your capering enters
a state of grace you’ve only seen in
women’s Olympic figure skating
the ground gives way
and you become a surprised crescent,
Everything rushes by, but in fact, it is you
who are rushing by.
The twitch of the gambol still fresh in your limbs,
you think, astonished,
“This is an unexpected part of the fun, isn’t it?”
And when you hit the earth and realize
that what has just knocked the breath out of you
has also knocked the life out of you,
and you find yourself left well past what can be undone.
At first, the shock is too great to bear.
Of course it is unfair beyond unfair!
All you were doing was what comes so easily to you,
to love the splendid world with your heart wide open.
It is in your nature to love;
ergo, it is in your nature to be broken.
And a biting wind from the southwest chuckles
that, hm, you aren’t up on current affairs,
and no, you didn’t understand
the change in the weather.
So, with a handful of breaths left, you--
now a clear-eyed, panting creature--
glimpse snowfall for the first time in your life.
You watch the aurora borealis slip away
and make of the moment what your wisest friend
would tell you now, if he could:
that genuine grace is what God lifts away
from the places where you have been crushed for good.