Winter 1985 • Vol. VII No. 1 PoetryJanuary 1, 1985 |

Back from the City

After three days and nights of rich food and late talk in overheated rooms, of walks between mounds of garbage and human forms bedded down for the night under rags, I come back to my dooryard, to my own wooden step. The last red leaves fall to the ground, and frost has blackened the herbs and asters that grew beside the porch. The air is still and cool, and the withered grass lies flat in the field. A nuthatch spirals down the rough trunk of the tree. At the Cloisters I indulged in piety while gazing at a painted lindenwood Madonna, who held her pierced and desiccated son across her knees; but when a man stepped close under the tassled awning of the hotel, asking for "a quarter for someone down on his luck," I turned my back. Now I hear tiny bits of bark and moss break off under the bird's beak and claw, and fall onto already-fallen leaves. "Do you love me?" said Christ to his disciple. "Lord, you know that I love you."         "Then feed my sheep."

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