Lawrence Raab

The World Provides
April 20, 2019 Raab Lawrence

––Tony Hoagland

Too many people are dying these days,
this year, on a morning as cold as this one,
while I’m out walking my dog, reading
Tony’s obituary, and feeling much as I did
when I read Mark’s, and Don’s. And will
when I turn to others in the paper’s back pages.
Sadness, of course. Which isn’t
the right word. Or the wrong one either.
Today these ponderous clouds won’t allow us
to see the brightness beyond them, which is only
what was predicted. This is the moment
in a poem when nature enters
to be suggestive. Or in a better poem:
when we’re urged to think harder
about what we’ve been thinking. Yes,
sometimes beauty is a kind of anesthetic.
But I still want that cherry tree
in Tony’s yard, the one that keeps
throwing its blossoms away
with such abandon. And I want the drowsy
mumbling of bees. And later the surprise of stars
that turn into books on a high shelf. After which
the moon rises from the sea like a bronze shield
in an ancient story about voyages and battles,
love and tribulation. It must be a story
that claims that death is capable of grandeur
––or once was––but still should be more
than absence. Should be an arrow driven through
that shield into the heart. Should be that body
grasping its sword, and for a moment refusing to fall.

Lawrence Raab is the author of ten books of poems, including Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts (Tupelo, 2015), which was longlisted for the National Book Award and named one of the Ten Best Poetry Books of 2015 by The New York Times, and What We Don’t Know About Each Other (Penguin, 1993), a winner of the National Poetry Series and a finalist for the 1993 National Book Award. His latest collection is April at the Ruins (Tupelo, 2022). Why Don’t We Say What We Mean?, essays about poetry, appeared in 2016. He is the Harry C. Payne Professor of Poetry Emeritus at Williams College.