smokies guide

This is called practicing eternity.
                   —Tao te Ching

So what if you believe in angels,
if once you left your body
on a clear October night, if you
sit, feet numb, spine grieving,
and lose yourself in breath. So what.
You’re sunk into this muddy world
up to your hubcaps. You waltz
under its mirrored ball, delirious
as a 1940s girl in her white faille
dress and peek-toe pumps.
This bully world still has the strength
to break your heart
with all it’s street-smarts and its swagger,
its Spanish love songs
and its one and only mango moon.

You say it’s not death, but the dying,
what comes before,
but it is death—giving up that moon
none of us can bear to leave,
the Chardonnay and berries,
summer’s peonies exploding
and the alchemy of autumn,
the caught breath that demands
itself, refuses to give in.
Each day you say, start now.
Teach yourself to yield. Become
light without desiring light.
But see how you’ve failed again,
your heart attentive and engaged,
a lighthouse at the edge
of a cold and dangerous sea.
Once again the child
climbs its hundred dark stairs
and with one small smoky lantern
tries to guide the boats safely in.

—  Susan Elbe, “Practicing Eternity”, in CALYX: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women (Vol. 20, No. 2, Winter 2001/2002)