an epithalamion for Jon and Thierry
Winter in paradise this year is dry enough to call a drought.
The grass isn’t green and isn’t growing in the season
we call the rainy one. No clouds color sunrise,
and every night, stars deepen the sky. Ancient light rains
from cloudless darkness. If there were enough for everyone,
the rays wouldn’t travel so fast. Light is a constant
reminder of the yearning between stars and all the worlds
spinning in darkness, like this one, the one we love.
For this brown grass and the open space between stars,
there’s not much rain. Never will there be too much
or even enough, so we celebrate and celebrate fiercely
all there is. When the rain finally comes, I’ll stand
in the storm with my face raised. When the night comes,
I’ll lift my eyes to the light and take it in. Rain will grace us,
and stars will burn. Light flies through the night,
and rain finds the earth for no reason we know, yet we leap
to drink our fill of what falls from above to sustain us.
That House in California
We never resided within those walls, but we lived there
for a few days, and we had a room of our own. On the desk
were photographs in silver frames of children
whose children now had grandchildren. Our meals
were prepared for us, served with wine or tea in low light
and laughter, and ice cream churned on the porch.
Seconds were encouraged. The hours were kind. Scrub jays
fled their shadows on narrow tree-shaded lanes. The crows
were silent at noon, but mockingbirds sang all the local
melodies they’d memorized in a medley at midnight.
Stars were everywhere, all the time. From where we stood
on the dark green, Mars was a dead, red disk, Jupiter revealed
four moons, and Saturn was a hayseed world
of protruding ears. Upstairs were no closets. Instead,
there was a desk, a lamp, a bed, an open window, and a breeze
carrying the comfortable rumble and moan of trains
through the valley. Skeletons danced across the walls, books
tilting beneath their feet, and a rattlesnake of rainbows
coiled by the door. When we knocked, we were welcome.
Eric Paul Shaffer is author of seven books of poetry, including Even Further West; A Million-Dollar Bill; Lāhaina Noon; Portable Planet; and Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen. 500 of his poems have been published in reviews in the USA, Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Scotland, and Wales. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Honolulu Community College.
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