The Simplicity Seekers

It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Then water
Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys,
And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands.

— W.H. Auden

One day they found the place. Caught the bus
Downtown and rode it for over an hour
Through scarred and mansioned mountains
To the ferry dock, and rode the waves,
To an island just twenty minutes off shore.

Recognized it immediately,
As if they’d been there before (or maybe only
Dreamed it) – as if the place had always existed,
A region marked by the absence
Of ads for beer and deodorant,
Of the endless, repetitive bustle of work
And beggars on crowded sidewalks.

All of it familiar, the eagles hanging over the bay,
The slug-scrawled path, gold shining in the leaves.

They pointed things out to each other,
Drawing their plans in the air: there
Would be the naturally weedless garden where
Vegetables and herbs would seem to grow themselves;
And over there, the room where she would write
About the rigorous pleasures of rural life,
Where he would build a telescope,
Learn to play jazz; and the wrap-around porch
Where she would find a way to paint
The wind’s voice, and he just sit
And watch the sky turn.

Knew the place and knew
It was what they’d always been looking for.
Knew also the bottom line:

That there were no jobs
For them here, no stores to buy bread,
No place for them to stay.
That laundry would still have to be done,
Bills paid. That renting a dream
Costs even more than buying one.

A darkness settled into the leaves, and a chill
Crept over the wind from eastward.
The road sloped down the hill, back to the ferry,
And they slumped after,
Each step homeward a hesitation,

The way dreams linger
In the body falling back into wakefulness,

The way the waves pull back
Before resigning themselves to the shore.

 

© Mark Milner

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