ON LEAVING EARLY
To die young is to be spared everything
beginning with your own father
who does not spare you
the weight of his head laid down
to test your pulseless chest
and to die young is to be spared nothing,
to inherit none
of the slower raptures:
to sow no quickening
and never to wake
your first or any love.
LETTER TO RUSSELL
The hand that cannot reach the phone
does not necessarily clutch the chest
and chances are the late husband
is taking his time, still untaken by time.
I know all this.
I know that fever ripples kids’ dreams
and then they wake, no wake required;
that the human norm is growing old
in a world reluctant to end.
. . .
Yet I tend to say goodbye to it all
before fear has even balled his hand
to knock hard on the door. Let me
ask you this: is it catastrophizing
if grief precedes alarm, if I land
at the imaginary end
and stage my worries in reverse,
snapping loss unpunctually
across the strophe’s knee? Let me ask:
is it magical thinking if I cannot spell out
I would compel a willing God to spare?
Jane Zwart teaches English at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have previously appeared in Poetry, TriQuarterly, and The Poetry Review, as well as other journals and magazines.
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