Edward Hirsch

(20 January 1950 / Chicago)

Late March


Saturday morning in late March.
I was alone and took a long walk,
though I also carried a book
of the Alone, which companioned me.

The day was clear, unnaturally clear,
like a freshly wiped pane of glass,
a window over the water,
and blue, preternaturally blue,
like the sky in a Magritte painting,
and cold, vividly cold, so that
you could clap your hands and remember
winter, which had left a few moments ago—
if you strained you could almost see it
disappearing over the hills in a black parka.
Spring was coming but hadn't arrived yet.
I walked on the edge of the park.
The wind whispered a secret to the trees,
which held their breath
and scarcely moved.
On the other side of the street,
the skyscrapers stood on tiptoe.

I walked down to the pier to watch
the launching of a passenger ship.
Ice had broken up on the river
and the water rippled smoothly in blue light.
The moon was a faint smudge
in the clouds, a brushstroke, an afterthought
in the vacant mind of the sky.
Seagulls materialized out of vapor
amidst the masts and flags.
Don't let our voices die on land,
they cawed, swooping down for fish
and then soaring back upwards.

The kiosks were opening
and couples moved slowly past them,
arm in arm, festive.
Children darted in and out of walkways,
which sprouted with vendors.
Voices greeted the air.
Kites and balloons. Handmade signs.
Voyages to unknown places.
The whole day had the drama of an expectation.

Down at the water, the queenly ship
started moving away from the pier.
Banners fluttered.
The passengers clustered at the rails on deck.
I stood with the people on shore and waved
goodbye to the travelers.
Some were jubilant;
others were broken-hearted.
I have always been both.

Suddenly, a great cry went up.
The ship set sail for the horizon
and rumbled into the future
but the cry persisted
and cut the air
like an iron bell ringing
in an empty church.
I looked around the pier
but everyone else was gone
and I was left alone
to peer into the ghostly distance.
I had no idea where that ship was going
but I felt lucky to see it off
and bereft when it disappeared.

Submitted: Friday, January 20, 2012
Edited: Friday, January 20, 2012

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