Was it worth waiting in consulates
for some clerk’s fleeting good humor
and waiting at the station for a late train,
seeing Etna in its Japanese cloak
and Paris at dawn, as Haussmann’s conventional caryatids
came looming from the dark,
entering cheap restaurants
to the triumphal scent of garlic,
was it worth taking the underground
beneath I can’t recall what city
to see the shades of not my ancestors,
flying in a tiny plane over an earthquake
in Seattle like a dragonfly above a fire, but also
scarcely breathing for three months, asking anxious questions,
forgetting the mysterious ways of grace,
reading in papers about betrayal, murder,
was it worth thinking, remembering, falling
into deepest sleep, where gray hallways
stretched, buying black books,
jotting only separate images
from a kaleidoscope more glorious than the cathedral
in Seville, which I haven’t seen,
was it worth coming and going, was it—
yes no yes no
erase nothing.

This Issue

April 17, 2008