When it Comes

Any time. Now. The next minute.

Years from today. You lean forward

and wait. You relax, but you don’t forget.

Someone plans an elaborate party

with a banquet, dancing, even fireworks

when feasting is over. You look at them:

All those years when you searched the world

like a ferret, these never happened – your marriage,

your family, prayers, curses. Only dreams.

A vacuum has opened everywhere. Cities,

armies, those chairs ranked in the great

hall for the audience – there isn’t anyone.

Like a shutter the sky opens and closes

and the show is over. The next act

will deny that anything ever happened.

Your hand falls open. It is empty. It never

held a knife, a flower, gold,

or love, or now. Lean closer –

Listen to me: there isn’t any hand.


William Stafford