Song of Becoming

the death of my first son,
born to live through one painful turn of this earth, is no
longer the seed of my own unending death, no longer an
empty gesture of the wind,
no longer a life in partial realization; i am still,
we are both still
but rising on the movement unraveled by lungs and a
portion of the wind,
by water and the touch of wind on water;
and the cast-off leaves also belong to the water, to the
earth above and below the water;
and the water collects in lungs;
sunlight penetrates the water and the earth and the
graves of the earth.
many years ago i sat beneath a willow and saw the
pond turn down,
the shadow of winter water roll up to be
touched by fingers of sunlight. but when the
clock struck eleven when the clock struck
eleven
i could only see the earth sloping down,
a cold hillside matted with chaotic grasses; forgive me
my son.
forgive this blind succession of nights and days, the
stomach shriveled around fetid whiskey
in the solitary hotel rooms of Iowa;
again iwaited for the train back to Kansas,
the train lumbering through the frozen darkness of
Minnesota with its thousands of tons
of lumber, grain and steel, coming to
exchange its movement
for my hours of insuring its movement, the train of
endless destinations coming. forgive the palpable
stab of the headlight,
the empty light by which i roared through river valleys,
swept past the smell of cottonwoods rotting in water, swept on in
the fumes of diesel fuel.
and when the deer leaped into the light and serenely to its death,
the eternity through which it always had moved,
i saw only the glazed reflection of my terror;
forgive me.
forgive the anguished
words by which i tried to
keep you; forgive the
damning words.

Born of this earth are skies
and the working of rocks upon the skies
which bellowed forth from volcanoes of the earth;
praise to the clouds and all movement of the clouds.
stirred from the water from beneath the water
are all living things upon the earth and beneath the earth,
change wrought within the water and upon the earth
and in the air above and within the earth;
praise to the oceans and streams entering the
oceans; praise to the mud where ocean enters the
earth; praise to the earth;
praise to the sun streaming forth its death
and the death of all things upon this planet;
praise to the sunlight spilling over the
branches of elms and aspen, spilling onto my
naked skin, the skin that has been touched by
hands
in expressions of love,
and the skin touched and touching
in their layers of death.
o my son,
all movement has stopped and forever continues;
these things you are forever teaching me.
in my own forgiveness i no longer expect,
no longer cry you down from your uninterrupted flight.
praise to your time and all things offered;
praise to the return and all things that be;
praise to the ceaseless, unmoved.

©John Greenleaf-Maple 1978

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