What is Life?

November 21, 2009
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Early morning,
a Saturday.
The whole earth holds its breath:
in fear or in anticipation,
it's hard to tell.

A color like
sleepy disoriented energy,
like that quiver of excitement
(or is it anxiety?)
before you wake up to go to
summer camp for the first time;
like rose soap, maybe,
or the hart of a porcelain shell,
it seeps from the oak trees,
the icy bittersweet rush of a glacial New England stream,
the rock and grass and pine needles
and dog crap, even,
and the rustle of petticoats
and the boom of a rusted musket,
and the scratching of pens and creaking of wagon wheels
echo across the chasm of years.

The leaves,
they think they see it first.
They turn their reedy pliable forms toward the light, eager to drink it in after the darkness
of a chillingly quiet night.
They catch the hues in their delicate skin, flaunting
their new colors in
the whispering elusive breeze.

But the rocks,
the good solid rocks,
trees and benches and roads
and the bones of the land,
from here to the mighty Pacific
(an eternity):
they have felt the dawn
and ached for it
for so long now,
so long before the silly frivolous leaves.

The color seeps further.
A church,
tiny almost in its antiquity,
stands opposite the ancient
Common with its monuments.
Bones lie below,
under crumbling slabs of history.
Blood was shed in these parts
long ago.
But the building,
which has seen so much in its years
of standing silent sentry on the hill,
is as pure and pristine
as the autumn air that
brushes its whitewashed cheeks.
Ensnaring the chapel in a gentle
hold, the blue-gold-pink-mauve-brown, the spirit light,
bathes the old edifice in a splendid glow.

People wake.
They talk
and run
and bicker
and fill the air with their incessant noise,
and even,
so rarely,
stop to think.

The light will fade,
but then return.

People will come.
Seasons will pass,
and they will be
gone forever.
The leaves will
fall to the ground,
brown, dry,
beautiful with the dawn colors
no longer.

But as sure as can be reasonably said,
though really such things
ought not to be sullied
with reason,
the spirits,
the bones,
the echoes will remain.

The stream,
the stone,
the trees,
though they had given up hope so long ago,
will see.

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