The Common Good
April 2012

Trading

by Jeanne Murray Walker | April 2012

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
...

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
                                                                —Wordsworth              

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      Okay, for now, I give up business
to search for the private life of daffodils,
             tracking spring, longing to sink
into some sweet bull’s-eye
            of stillness. Beside the Schuylkill River
      iris fly in place, their frilly lips
            trembly, almost obscene.
I take off my shoes and wade,
      first one foot, then the other
             where the river bares its white teeth
in anger, biting the rocks. I think
             of turning into a tree, but instead
                            I pretend to be a heron, trying
for such beatitude and stealth
            that I might show the river
                            how to clear up its old
misunderstanding with itself, how to
        be one thing. Sometimes it’s possible
             to see God standing on the bank,
       one hand keeping the world’s atoms
             from flying apart, the other shading
                            his black eyes, gazing around in love
at his creation. I settle back
                            into my own shape.
The river quiets down. Dark’s rising,
     stars just coming out
             against a navy sky. It’s like seeing fire
      through a colander of darkness,
piercings in the lovely screen of night.


Jeanne Murray Walker, poet, playwright, and teacher, lives outside Philadelphia. Her collection New and Selected Poems will be published in 2012.

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