The Metaphor of Life:
some call it a sea, or a stream
or a path. Some call it
a mountain stream, or an underground
path, and others just call it
a path. And there are pitfalls
that mark the metaphorical path
you’re treading, including serpents
banded with gold and purple,
butterflies in dark trees
and reapers in fields of glittering corn—
they are part of the metaphor, too.
In the bare branches of a hedge
small speckled birds with scarlet
plumage, and the smooth, yellow-green
body of the female cardinal,
and beneath the hedge the small pale leaves
of the dittany of Crete, the apple mint,
the rue, the herb-of-grace, the deadly
nightshade. In a clear sky Venus
is rising—Natural Venus and Celestial
Venus. There is a lamb in sheep’s clothing
and a man in lamb’s clothing. You arrived
by a dark path; but it was the only
path. You might dream of pausing
along the way and sleeping in a barn,
but only in the robes of a privy councillor.
Ancient neighborhoods and crumbling houses
with green shutters were gentrified
long after you passed through,
and now they gleam, new, unrecognizably.
In the equinoctial light of shipyards
and in the light of arctic shipyards,
you have stepped out onto the rose-patterned
stones of the common pathway.
And again, night comes, and the sky,
with all its stars, its boundlessness
coming to befriend you.