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Some of the Ways

ISSUE:  Winter 1981
“The soul was clean Thou gavest me.”

First, they show a lake, from right down
by the water looking across, all gray,
dark, with waves and millions of raindrops.
Then they turn. The person to save you
is there, crowded so close you see
only an eye and part of the face,
like an otter, so mild, so benign.
You see how you could have been better if your
days had been different. But it is all right:
you hear the lake and you fall and are saved,
again and again in the kind eye,
deep and gray, millions of times.



It is cold and the horses breathe white. It is
evening. No one is out on the road
near the pasture. Suddenly in the silence your ear
looms forth a frightening recital—a soft
repeated motorcycle sound inside
your head: something strange has caught you, sure
as the hawk stoops at a mouse. You’ll never
escape. While you’re dying you look far,
where evening light gleams, and the horses’ breath.


A limber bird, maybe a towhee,
calls. The sound catches at a bend
in the road. Because of a birdcall, no one
can ever own this land or escape
to another: above the shadowy ground,
a spread of wings. They reach tomorrow.


In the pasture the stream, wavery as willows,
touches willows and they touch back.
Something calls you, you answer. Might you
go out and call first some time?


If you know what is strange, you know
what is not strange. Why then seek out
strangeness? Why scorn the ordinary?
Is doing that ordinary?
Ordinary people like strangeness.


Something treacherous in you may be saved by
the dangerous world. Unpredictable as life is,
it is less treacherous than you are. You’ll
take your chances with the world before you’ll
trust yourself. A storm races in:
it thunders, batters the house—in order to save you.


When a serene morning comes—long sun
rays, quiet fields, a breath of flowers—
you are afraid. Who gives, may take,
and you—so long without hope—could then be bereft.


Somewhere you’ll meet the spirit that walks
in balance, holding out your days
in either hand. You’ll take the one and then
the other—walk on. You’ll know the angel
that brought you here, through whatever
caves it takes, and rivers, and open land.


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