Joy*, by Geoffrey G. O’Brien

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Like motion, clouds, and cold
The advantages of being
Also its disadvantages.
My child was sleeping lightly,
Crying out from time
To time in response
To one dim version
Of the satire of night.
All complaints and fears
That pull white talk
From sleepers unawares
Are about the one thing
He would return to
In a few bad minutes,
Snow quilting the streets
In the idea of a good
19th century still coming
Down as suggestions.
In such a dire ease,
In the charity of that situation,
You begin again to feel
Time can be kept if
You observe its flow as fall.
I turned off the overhead
For an invisible environment
That held what it did,
Managed the adversaries
External and internal
So that I was, if not proof,
Liable and raw enough
To set down the following,
Though not in these words:

It’s a joy to be hidden,
Disaster not to be found.
This applies especially in
The world of goods and services
And cosmic alphabets.
The reverse is also true
And the two truths unite
In a description not meant
For the toy of thought
A person is at night.
Thinking I’d heard him
While knowing I hadn’t,
Certain of nothing but
An atomized fall
Muffling ambient sound,
The weather became nearly
Personal, just as a cry
From the other room is
And is not meant for me,
Who was now mostly snow’s
Airborne ambivalence
While the vertical decided
Where to lie down.
The additional layer played
At thin tranquilities
It seemed I wouldn’t be
Free to use or be
That much used by,
Would be done before
I was, had at most one
Echo of an act left

Before the streets reverted
From glow to bleakness
I understood to be
The temporary gift
Then sends now
For silence to frost
Or destroy, that the light
Dedicated in the lampposts
Zippering up the block
Will hasten or delay.
Like any good theorist
Folding in time
I let the snow fall
Where it would, there
To begin its second
Fate on the ground.
I thought as you will
Have guessed by now
I was telling the future
What it needed to know
But the transcript shows
After changing and putting
Him back to sleep
Only this, my taking
Briefest advantage
Of a relative absence
Of people on the street
To ask the past for help.
Friends I’ve never met,
Lying in the unopened
Letter of your beds,
The light that is off
Is still a light.

 is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Experience in Groups. He teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.



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