Bellwether

      by Ronald Wallace

        after Bashō

A neighbor we barely knew has died. The
daffodils and crocuses ring their temple
bells. A day too warm for March—a bell-
wether day. The redwings pull out all the stops,
the grackles gang up, a cacophony in the plum tree, but
the neighbor we barely knew has died. The
minister talks about “blessing and mercy,” the sound
of his voice, describing a “better place,” keeps
the birdsong out. In what universe the Lamb of God? On
what planet the Sins of the World? Lord, I’m coming
to believe in the bluebird beatitudes, to tease out
that eternal life has nothing to do with a heaven of
harping angels, has nothing to do with us. The
neighbor we hardly knew has died. Life flowers.



From You Can’t Be Serious, Madison, Wisconsin: Parallel Press, 2015. Note that the last words of each line of this poem, read vertically from top to bottom, form a haiku by Bashō. See also “Song of Myself.”