Defining Gravity

Richard Flynn

" 'Perhaps they were right putting love into
books,' he thought quietly. 'Perhaps it could
not live anywhere else.'
                                  —William Faulkner
                                  Light in August

What thoughts I am able to have in the short breaths
between the pulses of the neighbor's bass, I must steal,
as if they were born from a distorted sense of fear.
Though I'm alone, finally, I'm unable to lift
sense from the abstractions, unable to face
the hard and imminent fact of the child that will come

too soon and not soon enough, that will become
something apart from us who made it, with its first breath.
Still, we will see ourselves, indelible, in its face.
Even the agony of decision will be erased when we steal
the first glance. It will both lift
us and bring us down to earth with the helplessness of fear.

Yet, even now, I ask myself what there is to fear.
We both knew that someday the time would come
when we'd want to have children, when we'd lift
ourselves from the uncertain world in a breath.
We knew that eventually we would try to steal
that joy for ourselves, looking past the volatile face

of things we ought to know better than to face.
Still, perhaps foolishly, we continue as if our fear
were inconsequential, as if we could steal
away and find a secluded place where nothing would come
that wasn't wanted, though we'd know that in a breath
it could end. We know we could never lift

ourselves completely from that possibility, or lift
the child from it either, though we'd rather not face
the inevitability that just as we give it breath
the child will inherit twice our fear.
Even as the end must silently and surely come,
we will try to hold those moments we can steal.

Perhaps we can't make sense of it, or steal
enough moments even to begin to lift
ourselves from the despair we forget but always come
back to. And we say it's worth it, although the face
of worthlessness is always there, so that we fear
it's almost useless to bother with the next breath.

What freedom we steal now, savored in the face
of that uplifting responsibility we fear
and also welcome, is as furtive as that breath.

 

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