“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” -Henry David Thoreau
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black,
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Moving ever closer to the edge,
I try to peek; get a glimpse, you know;
I need to see how far it is
to the bottom; to calculate how far I’d fall
If I were to fall at all.
Just curious, that’s all, nothing more.
No harm in knowing the risk.
I’ve been living life close to the brink for decades,
Yet I’m still here. What harm will come if I were to
Continue rollicking near the edge?
“This time you’ll be dead if you fall,”
said a voice from behind.
“There will be no more chances this time.”
I didn’t believe it; I never heeded the many warnings
No matter from whom they came.
“I’m going to live forever,” I told the voice.
(But I was beginning to grasp the true price tag
constant reckless behavior brings);
What an insane and daring undertaking my life has been!
It’s as if I’ve been tempting Almighty God.
I started shaking my fist at the heavens. “Go on, then,
Take me if you’re going to, but be quick about it.”
(I don’t like pain.) It doesn’t matter what you do with me.”
I was done with this miserable little life of mine;
All aspiration was gone.
As I stood there, toes dangling over the edge,
A mighty wind began to push from behind,
urging, insisting, demanding, physically shoving me,
“Wait!” I insisted, but my feet slipped, and I fell.
I shattered like glass when I hit bottom.
©2016 Steven Barto
Five summer days, five summer nights,
The ignorant, loutish, giddy blue-fly
Hung without motion on the cling peach,
Humming occasionally: “O my love, my fair one!”
As in the Canticles.
Magnified one thousand times, the insect
Looks farsically human; laugh if you will!
Bald head, stage-fiery wings, bleary eyes,
A caved-in chest, hairy black mandibles,
Long spindly thighs.
The crime was detected on the sixth day.
What then could be said or done? By anyone?
It would have been vindictive, mean and what-not
To swat that fly for being a blue-fly,
For debauch of a peach.
Is it fair, either, to bring a microscope
To bear on the case, even in search of truth?
Nature, doubtless, has some compelling cause
To glut the carriers of her epidemics –
Nor did the peach complain.
Father God, we eagerly desire the spiritual gifts You’ve given for our common good. Help us understand the various gifts and how they work. May we use what we’ve received to serve others, administering grace in love and with renewed passion. Let our youth workers set examples in speech, life, love, faith, and purity. Cause them to be strong, alive-in-the-Word overcomers. Give them discernment to deal with troubled youth as they teach them Your life-giving principles. Thank you for every behind-the-scenes worker who is devoted to service. Bless them for their obedience and generosity. May You receive praise as a result. Reward them for serving You humbly and wholeheartedly rather than seeking to be noticed by others.
Holy Father, You are perfect in character. Your law is perfect in standard. Your law rightly demands perfection of us. Father, we ask that You remind us often that we cannot live up to that divine requirement on our own resources. Bring to our remembrance this inability of Your law. Stir our hearts to trust in that better hope. Lord, we desire to walk closely with You. Thus, we trust in Your grace as the only sufficient hope that will allow us to draw near to You, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
In a field near the lake
stands the ghost of a dead oak.
The ghost is black and very tall.
It never speaks or moves.
The sky wants to take it.
The earth wants to eat it.
But the ghost is strong, it does not want to move.
So it argues half its tongues into the dirt,
and grips hard against the sky’s glutton lung.
It whispers the other half into air,
and weathers the white earth’s thirst.
Like a frayed black suture it binds earth and sky together.
In this way the ghost stills its universe:
the sky can never rise nor the earth fall
out of their coupling’s grave jurisdiction.
The lake will breathe its atoms to the clouds,
the constellations will pageant
the lucky patterns of their composition
until they break and fade,
but the ghost will stand
contented with the silence,
with the snowfall,
with the stalemate of its own device.
This poem first appeared in James Dickey Review 27.1, Fall 2010