September, 1988

Would our released prisoner be likely to covet those
prizes or to envy the men exalted to honor and
power in the Cave?

Socrates, The Republic

And so it is that my life
like the seasons has come full circle.

The leaves are laden with color
and the lake burgeoning with steelhead.

Here on this bench at Lone Tree Point
where in the summer of 1888 a sudden storm

drove Mrs. Lawson’s boat to this land’s end,
addicted her to the promise of peace of mind,

I too find respite on this quiet lawn,
refuge from the life we all would flee.

Gathered here with my friends to celebrate
the covenanted promises of God,

I stroll the shores of this,
the deepest lake in all Wisconsin,

exploring correlatives
for inexorable truths about ourselves

that in these moments we might forge poems
from the tangle of our lives;

we have assembled here to ask
one unremitting question

not about what lies beyond the horizon
where sails evaporate in haze,

but only this
how are we doing so far?

In a church play at age nine,
I was John Wesley struggling methodically

to become truly born again,
and the artifice gave me cause to wonder

if the part was type casting
if I too might merit some transformation.

And though with effort I can still recall
the pitched battles of my heart that followed,

it is as the fiction of a dream,
someone else’s life, not mine.

Now even my own corporeal shadow
becomes a noisome stranger,

a memento mori I keep around to remind me
I am yet imperiled and moribund.

And though I am not Ulysses
in my secret heart I too hate the shore,

would happily sail out my days
on this deep cold water,

casting my line for only what is needful,
hearing no sound but voices of my children,

my dear wife beside me at the tiller
while I trim the sails.

But this is not a time for leisure.
Soon the wind will sting our faces,

rend the trees of splendid rainbow harvest
while we prepare for the unkind winter

if we wish to emerge
on the other side in spring

to creep out of the chrysalis of our becoming,
and a new race after all.

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