There is a line I remember from a poem I wrote one fall in the San Joaquin Valley when I was twenty-six or twenty-seven:

Leaves fell in dusty strokes
through my open window.

The leaves might have been poplar leaves, or leaves from the little walnut tree I had recently planted, or leaves from the vineyard or orchard near our house. At the time, it didn�t matter. Neither did the fact that our windows had screens. And although I didn�t say, I knew the leaves were yellow. And dusty. They had to be, because it had been months since we�d seen any rain.

The poem was sad. Why would a healthy, happily married young man, a father of two healthy young children � a person, in effect, who has absolutely everything � write a poem that is sad? For the same reasons, I imagine, that a healthy, happily married older man, a father of four healthy, intelligent grown children, would write a sad poem now: because so much about life is sad, and because the yellow leaves are still falling.

But the dust is gone. It has been raining. And the windows here also have screens. Sometimes I wish they didn�t. Sometimes I wish they didn�t have glass, and that one morning I would wake to find snow on the floor, and ragged, wind-torn nests, and several lamps and tables overturned, and muttering derelicts asleep in the chairs, and an overcrowded sick ward in the living room staffed by an old Russian doctor and his tired nurse, both of whom can do nothing but try to make their patients comfortable and wait � for what? The end, I suppose � or the next chapter, in which a lonesome stranger arrives with a cure, only to have the long journey kill him.

�I love you,� he says to the nurse. �What is your name?�

And the nurse takes his hand and softly replies: �Forever. My name is Forever.�

October 19, 2006

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