Boston Review


If by succeeding you mean doing things right,
and exactly, then it has no future.
Ash blows from us madly and without cause.
To keep things the same, where do you stop
to worship and repair? It is natural to decline. I decline.

The modicum of life that strung the little necks
of crocuses, that lulled the feeble seed
into its disease called grass, that heaped the pious
branches with their only whiteness,
that broke silver from the jawbone of moon,

now walks me through the same lesson of snow
until I am humble, until I am grateful, until birches
lean far enough to undermine their spot, their root,
until aftergrass turns to wheat and rope, and what can I do
but walk over it, divine another origin, cast it off.   

—Joan Houlihan

Joan Houlihan’s poems have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Harvard Review, and elsewhere.

Originally published in the April/May 2003 issue of Boston Review

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