brief afternoons :: ira sadoff
In the brief afternoons of February,
when the whole God question comes up
like a knock on the door from Jehovah’s witnesses—
no, not like them, but really them
and their stack of newspapers and questions, swirling
in the snow—I’m cautious, impatient, defenseless.
I guard the door like St. Peter or Cerberus,
The Word before it’s written. We discuss the proof
of the snowflake, God’s design and the sin of the self.
We require uplifting because of the chill
and the solitude, because we project onto the pines
endings and beginnings, the whiteness of snow
in the darkening quill of afternoon,
where January can no longer be corrected; December’s
a parent’s perpetual death and July a child’s fairy tale.
But now they’re at my door with their gloomy accusations,
and because of the lateness of the hour,
because I have no defense, no justification
outside myself, I invite them in for tea—
together, white man and black man, the lapsed
and the saved, we watch the wind push the snow,
we listen to the woodstove chatter and whisper and hiss.