Every day we’d be reminded:
We were sacred, chosen favorites;
just the latest versions, shaped
to fit without a gap. Every
morning, clutching scripts, we blocked
the next day’s movements. Every phrase
was finished for us. Every gesture
was into space emptied in
advance. Every night, at lights out,
the air began to thicken; you would
lie there quiet, feel yourself
be loved, and every breath inhaled.
Our houses and our cars, and have to flee
Through lonely forests. We’d abjured their pity,
Bit the hand that out of charity
Had caged us. But like the carefree swallows, we
Alighted at the meadow’s edge to link
And weave our glinting congeries of keys,
Like tinsel straw and sticks, in smiling wreaths,
To loop about the skinny necks of trees
And scornful busts with eyes too black to see,
And fly toward the woods, unlocked and free.
You cities whose veins are quivering with gold,
Infusing winter hillsides with a glow
That overflows from tranquil evening windows,
And shines upon the sea, now tamed, that once
Seethed and hissed, an eternal, breathless void.
In the swirling storm the shadows of the trees
Scratch their thin black fingers at the door,
And grin with icy teeth. But I have brought
The child’s eyes the gleam of Christmas lights.
Your gardens bloom among the scalding desert
Rocks; fountains to nourish the desolate dust;
Sown for you wide fields of flourishing grain;
Thickened the orange peel, made the grapefruit
Plump and gold. No bleeding slave now scrapes
His grave from the ground for my dominion. Now
I harvest with spinning steel, to fructify
A race that’s known no famine; fill your barns
With stacks of wheat and cotton; milk the herds;
Press the olive; comb and card the wool.
A path for the peasant and his son to leave
The plains, where only wind once haunted grass,
And raised them steeples of steel and gleaming glass,
Whence shines the light of day on Earth’s dark side.
Where once they stared across the empty strait,
I balanced a bridge on a thousand metal strands,
And every one I’ve gilded with a light
That points toward tomorrow through the night.
Thanks to Timothy Sandefur for today's poems! About himself, Timothy writes: I am an attorney and author living in Rescue, although I’m originally from southern California. I’ve written poetry on and off through my life, and find myself drawn frequently to the subject of freedom. “Tale of the keys” is inspired by a story that in 1989, one of the communist nations—I forget which—allowed people for the first time to leave, but warned them that they could never come back; the people answered by hanging the keys to their houses on the statues and trees and leaving anyway.
I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.