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The Worlds in this World
Doors were left open in heaven again:
drafts wheeze, clouds wrap their ripped pages
around roofs and trees.
Like wet flags, shutters
flap and fold.
Even light is blown out of town,
its last angles caught in sopped
newspaper wings and billowing plastic —
all this in one American street.
Elsewhere, somewhere, a tide
recedes, incense is lit, an infant
sucks from a nipple, a grenade
shrieks, a man buys his first cane.
Think of it: the worlds in this world.
Yesterday, while a Chinese woman took
hours to sew seven silk stitches into a tapestry
started generations ago, guards took only
seconds to mop up a cannibal’s brain from the floor
of a Wisconsin jail, while the man who bashed
the killer’s head found no place to hide,
and sat sobbing for his mother in a shower stall —
the worlds in this world.
Or say, one year — say 1916:
while my grandfather, a prisoner of war
in Holland, sewed perfect, eighteen-buttoned
booties for his wife with the skin of a dead
dog found in a trench; shrapnel slit
Apollinaire's skull, Jesuits brandished
crucifixes in Ouagadougou, and the Parthenon
was already in ruins.
That year, thousands and thousands of Jews
from the Holocaust were already — were
still ¬— busy living their lives;
while gnawed by self-doubt, Rilke couldn’t
write a line for weeks inVienna’s Victorgasse,
and fishermen drowned off Finnish coasts,
and lovers kissed for the very first time,
while in Kashmir an old woman fell asleep,
her cheek on her good husband's belly.
And all along that year the winds
kept blowing as they do today, above oceans
and steeples, and this one speck of dust
was lifted from somewhere to land exactly
here, on my desk, and will lift again — into
the worlds in this world.
Say now, at this instant:
one thornless rose opens in a blue jar above
that speck, but you — reading this — know
nothing of how it came to flower here, and I
nothing of who bred it, or where, nothing
of my son and daughter’s fate, of what grows
in your garden or behind the walls of your chest:
is it longing? Fear? Will it matter?
Listen to that wind, listen to it ranting
The doors of heaven never close,
that’s the Curse, that’s the Miracle.
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