All things counter, original, spare and strange in Khujand, Tajikistan

Thoughts at 23



I am 23 years to heaven

(that’s Dylan Thomas)

23 years from earth.

A wonder it’s still me.

I would have thought by now

I wouldn’t recognize myself

As the kid toe to toe with the mirror

Wondering when he’d grow old enough

For looks not to matter.

But days have a way of embracing the world anew

Which is why there is always more me

At the end of each year:

Time’s a gift and a scourge,

An apple and a riding crop,

A fresh white of snow over waiting ground.

And Lord you give and give

Until you stop. But I don’t think you stop.


Growing is the longest thing.

I can still feel my shins where they used to ache

With too much of your love,

If you love the mustard seed.


One Mayan legend has it

That the Quetzl lays its eggs

In the heart of the earth

Where the real red world still burns.

Coddled in fire the young bird

Breathes into being at the center of things,

Then breaks to the world

With a torment of wings.

Buried first, then born.


God of gold wings and bright feathers,

God brood this love into form.

God and on these tar-swollen streets

Gather even the makers of confederate history,

The sullen recipients of federal assistance,

The absentee fathers and mothers and children of widows,

The drivers of highways built high over ghettos,

Gather, I beg

Even such as I–dull bearer of white guilt,

Giver of money, giver of time, keeper of privacy,

Self-sufficient hoard of inherited privilege,

Under your wings.


I think what I fear most is loneliness.

Thank you that, with few exceptions,

You’ve spared me of it.

I also fear death, but death I cannot taste

So it doesn’t often weigh upon my mind.

I love easy companionship

That doesn’t have to ask its name.

I love weather,

I even like talking about it.

I love words

And I love the thought of myself in love.

I would say I love women,

But that would be to give in

To the misdirection of my more shameful fantasies:

Abstraction is something of evil, something of a silly mistake.

I love the feeling of myself in water,

And my face full of rain.

I think that I love you, my God

But I know nothing of how it’s done.


I am told I am young.

I do not know what it means to be young,

Except that so much remains to be seen.

But no one knows much

So I am not so different.

It means–to be young–only to have fewer habits.


So, in this world where even God could die

I walk.

23 years full of life behind squalling.

Ahead is yet silent.

A womb each unknowing of days

And each breaking forward a birth,

Death and the old year behind.

O keep me in fear for my life, my God.

Keep me in fear for my life.


One response

  1. Mom

    I love it. The gift God has given you is amazing. I don’t think I will ever cease to be in awe of what you write.

    April 25, 2010 at 5:40 pm

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