In the seventh century Persian tile we saw,
the Tree of Life grew into the heads
of the lively animals.

My friend says there is only one prayer left us now:
“Don’t hurt anybody,” meaning,
“Don’t hurt us.”

This year the women’s skirts are long again,
the popular color: a cool green,
the Impressionists’ dream of order
only the mean red nails
and the high boots remind us
of the other side,
the one we didn’t want to think of:
the mother on the News the day after Christmas
who killed her children
and then burned their bodies
in a vacant lot.

When you leave the house, instead of saying:
“I am burning with love for you,”
I touch your face and say:
“Be careful.”

Moving into the decade,
our lives become more possible,
our possibilities narrow:
keeping out of harm’s way,
trying to do less harm.

This Issue

December 17, 1981