local_library Change of Command

by Stephen Longfellow

Published in Issue No. 166 ~ March, 2011

All goes onward and outward, nothing

And to die is different from what any one
supposed, and luckier.

Whitman, “Song of Myself”

There you are again, the sun’s hand

on your shoulder, your hands clasped behind

you in obsequious patience, the scent

of clipped grass, the air intimate

with your ear, chin up, eyes straight,

hidden within the long, still ranks,

beyond the shade of a viewing stand

full of anonymous importance,

witness to another coming

and going with the beating of drums

and a good brass band all done up

in ribbons, the sweet, blue sky

an opening iris leading you out

into the garden of an infinite

silence. Beyond the buzzing of another

day’s words, there is nothing for you,

standing there waiting, except chance

and the universe brushing against your

skin, the random motion of now

miraculously arranging into

a line of iridescent clouds rising

from behind the horizon, and a vision

occurs to you that is only a little like

that, shining cold and high, it is you

who are moving, that beyond,

in the hidden darkness, lie the ruins

of a forever you cannot comprehend,

a vastness of quartz dust scattered

wide under the heel of a boot, maybe

a big dipper promising water enough,

and how, gratefully, you fall asleep.

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Stephen has a MFA in creative writing from Vermont College and teaches a little at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. His poetry is currently out or forthcoming in a number of magazines, among them the Los Angeles Review, Drunken Boat, In Posse Review, and Word Riot. He looks forward to kayaking the Missouri River sometime soon.