John Skoyles

If we stare too far ahead
we trip over the feeblest root.

If we look back
we become shadows,
people who pick up accents
from a long stay in a strong country.

If we take too much care,
fearful of the god
whose footfalls we hear approaching,
we go nowhere,

caught in the song
of our age,
a flickering storm of ash
from the raked leaves.

In that flurry
a black butterfly
bats the air
as it dips through the cinders.

Which one's on fire?
Which has a home in this world?

John Skoyles teaches poetry writing at Emerson College, in Boston. A new book of his poems, Definition of the Soul, will be published next year.

The Atlantic Monthly; August 1997; History; Volume 280, No. 2; page 56.

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