After the Emergency

You sit in a brown Adirondack chair
on a steep slope looking east
between the pines so tall
they were surely here, large even,
before you were born.

The storm chased out the humidity
and now, a month before autumn,
and still in the heavy grasp of katydids
and one insistent bird that changes
trees too fast to see, you are safe.
Free from the worst you imagine.

In the distance, tourists with phones
and not enough light still try to catch
the old church’s round roof
while one slim beetle that can fly
lands on your forearm, stays.

This is what you told yourself you wanted:
a quiet evening, a chair with a view,
a breeze, the rumble of motorcycles
fading to a line on the horizon.

But if you’ve learned anything
from the long drives to the hospital
or letters from the lawyer, phone calls
that aren’t wrong numbers at 2 a.m.,
and that tone in his voice, her face
when there’s something to say
that will shake away the Etch a Sketch
of your life for a moment, it’s that
nothing will be the same.

There is no emergency.
There is only emergency.
How can it be any other way,
the pages of the sky, each one
in slow motion or fast,
keep asking you.

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About the Author

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam's Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
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