April 15, 2020
The children whirl in circles round me there,
Axis and father of them all, their bikes
Humming against cold air, the flash of wheels
Ripping about the empty parking lot
Outside the shuttered public library.
The only person who intrudes upon
Their endless, free procession: one old man
Who comes each day and plugs his laptop in
With an extension cord, its long orange line
Led snake-like to an outlet in the stone.
He sits there, in his car’s back seat, a door
Cracked to admit the power, his white head
Ignoring us and bent in concentration,
As if pure thought turned in upon itself.
But he should see how those kids whip their way
In narrow, then in greater, orbits flying,
As do the hosts of feathered seraphim,
Formed rank on rank, enclosed in brilliant wings,
And giving of the plenitude they circle,
From greater to the lesser, so that all
Share in the splendor of the sourceless font,
That boundless wheel of light which kindles all.
Such ecstasy and glory have they found
In their but recently acquired balance;
They coast within a haze of radiance.
Beyond us, stretch the baseball fields, their backstops
Heavy and dull with chain-linked uselessness,
The infields scribbled through with dirt bike tracks.
And, just along the margin of the wood,
The playground we have named for Narnia
Sits idle, swings and jungle gym both wrapped
In orange police tape, snapping back and forth,
Caught in the fitful gusts of April wind.
Just out of sight, still other circles narrow.
The nesting of a man into his lounger,
A case of Lite spread open like a mouth
Beside the leg rest handle. On the set,
An episode recorded some years back
Shows someone spin the wheel or buy an “O.”
A woman, frail and shrunken in her blouse,
Has freshened up her tight perm with a pick,
But let it drop back gently on the couch,
Her breath grown shallow, slowed as sleep descends.
And, in the early morning, fathers pace
With bloodshot, angry eyes, the children yelling
And crowding one another at the sink.
The basin’s thick with aqua streaks of paste
That cling beneath the cold gush jetting downward.
And somewhere, someone’s mother chips a nail
Trying to clean the juice and crumbs that hide
Within the wrinkled padding of a highchair;
And someone locked inside a studio
Whose heart is racing, racing with the boredom
Reels eyes from phone to book to alley window;
While in the paper, blotches pullulate
And overlap upon a printed map
Like an old stack of tiddlywinks we’ve scattered.
Our dogwoods now stand prim with pinkish flowers,
The maple in the side yard, bulging clusters,
While apple and magnolia shed last petals
In skirts that radiate about their trunks.
Yet, even now, the season’s gripped with chill,
And I find, twisting on the air, a few
Stray flurries wend their pointless journey down,
As if to warn us, all that comes to pass
Will be turned back upon itself, in time,
However much time seems one long, straight line.
And, in this spiraling about an axis,
We may see fate, but fate has its own order;
And order brings with it a kind of freedom,
As Thomas proves, when he repeats each arc
About the lot, as if it were the cosmos—
That place of churning planets, winding stars,
And singing angels covering their eyes—
His cycle racing wild its spinning pageant
So fast I hardly note the trepidations.
-James Matthew Wilson