Today we are going into shelter,
we are going underground to discover the passage that leads
to the next world. We will be happy there,
or we will not worry about happiness; we will make neat designs
in skin and wool, emblems we set against the stone walls
for posterity to find. Today I picture the generations
of our kind, crossing the marshy bridge into this country,
picture the long ramble down the icy, scoured valleys,
and I wonder what made them do it, without philosophy
or belief, without even much they wanted from the earth.
I see them haggard at the edge of a muddy wallow,
their minds like notches cut into stone, the stick
they fling a kind of miracle, a glance like a handful of fire
tossed in the air, no language to back them up. Today,
from the suburbs, I salute them, as if I am drunk
and falsely exuberant, as if I am just leaving the house
of a friend who is dying, who has dragged her bed
under the window to watch the ordinary street pass by.
I could tell lies to the dying, it would be easy,
easy to say that we are at the beginning, not at the end,
that all the business in the swamps with cutthroat beasts
was only prologue, as Homer was prologue,
as Dante and Stalin and your Aunt Edna were prologue,
that the trek is just getting under way here
as we flash our knives and call
over the “great distances of our longing”
promising to love each other the way we promised.