Friday, April 2, 2021

The Layers by Stanley Kunitz


I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being abides,

from which I struggle not to stray.

When I look behind, as I am compelled to look before

I can gather strength to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way, bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn, exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road precious to me.

In my darkest night, when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice directed me:

“Live in the layers, not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter in my book of transformations is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

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