A detailed map of the road ahead

I have often thought Purgatory would not be some

hot fire of God, but, knowing me and what

would be excruciating for me, a

glimpse of every witless and witty,

witting and unwitting hurt I’d done –

all played back in the clarity of lovelight –

God at the back, wordless, with me left to

make of this story what I could –

the reputation-slicing jokes, the

cold overwhelming power to ignore –

even for years, even to this day –

boots on flowers, the girl crying

as she shuts the door, the friend who

knows I was never a friend –

and in answer to this nothing but

my own tears, the endless stream of them.


I almost welcome it. Why not

start now? Why not separate

the spirit from the salt and get the jump

on what so obviously must be done?


I thought of this yesterday, seeing a man

doing just that, though invertedly, being  on

on this side of the divide, and not

regretful but grateful.

He was engaged in a kind of

love summation, going back over the old ground,

reviewing blessings –

the man who’d said, you’ll need a trade,

the doctor who’d cured tuberculosis,

the girl who hadn’t turned him in.

He, too, was in tears,

but here at the splendor of it all,

knowing you couldn’t contain it,

couldn’t hold even one of those blessings –

not in your little cup,

not in your little hand.


I thought I was supposed to

do something big,

but it kept never happening

and I felt really small.

My heart became a sad, little

shrinking thing, and if you took me

whole and entire, I’d have fit through

the hole of a salt shaker.

The crystals were like boulders to me.

The worst of it was

I knew it was good to be little

and so I felt I

had no right to be sad.

I was selling the message of

poor in the Spirit, and believed it too,

so why was I sad? I knew big

would do nothing for me.

Thank God I wasn’t always sad.

Joy stole up like a teasing child.

Play a game. Look at my kaleidoscope.

I didn’t have the heart to shoo her away.

All she had to do was move a single cloud

and the whole world looked different.

When she left, though, to play with her ocean,

I’d put all the clouds back in place.

And it stayed that way, my face

fixed in a wrinkle, and it

stayed that way

until one day I saw

what the problem was.

I was trying to be big by being

a prophet of the little,

but forgot to be, really be, little,

a man at home in his own wooly heart,

working in sleet and sun and stain,

ready to live life alive again.

A man in a hat. A man with a rake.

A man whom happiness would not forsake

at the drop of a hat.

So now I’m off to do that job –

to work for free in God’s own yard.

God will rain and God will blow,

and I’ll rake His leaves and shovel His snow.

And smile as I do, for the little I know.