The light I see by, a reading lamp with a green glass shade,
floats on the dark of the winter window,
as if it might light the wintry blear that blows in hard from the east.
Snow swirls into that white burst of down
a finch becomes, just before the talons of a sharp-shinned seize it.
No hawk in sight now, a goldfinch flickers
on the hanging cylinder of seed, and needles its beak into the thin slit,
tweezing out harvest and source. If I could,
conjuring, I’d say sun-burnished, casket of jonquils and amber . . .
words that belong to a moment more lavish than this.
I try to be satisfied with each moment’s fasting of the heart—
but I think old Sam, who was our dog, lived
more ably than I, what Merton called a life of deliberate irrelevance.
Go ahead, guess what he meant. Then guess what the dog
thought as it raced through the underbrush, finch as it flew apart,
hawk as it lifted its burnished wings and dived, monk
as he sat and turned the thought of death into a prayer, into a book
of wordless poems left open beneath the green glass shade.
Dying, Sam stared for hours into the dark. Upright, alert—
such fierce, clear-eyed attention! Not that his pain was less. Not that his dark
was feathered by words like lucky or bless. But that the light he saw the world by,
he was it—no window glass, none, however clear, between.