Rhina P. Espaillat



                  Impasse: Glose


Between my reason and my heart
there is warfare without end:
neither calls the other friend,
and yet they cannot live apart.

I saw a child in a green field
assaulting heaven with his kite.
It was himself had built for flight
what now his harness hand unreeled
and steadied when it bucked and heeled,
himself who watched it dive and dart
to leafy ruin. For all his art,
he was a child, and children weep.
Such playful tension must I keep
between my reason and my heart.

Two lovers trading touch for touch,
longing to share their single skin
to be together wholly in,
despair that two are one too much.
Later, in clearer light–in such
as ripens wits until they mend
they learn to nurture and defend
the selves they would have thrown away.
Between the moon and sober day
there is warfare without end.

A sage–or so he said he was–
instructed me to learn his life:
coarse bread, rough shirt, no child, no wife,
no art, no commerce and no laws.
He called those body's traps, the cause
of spirit's grief. He meant to send
the body packing. I intend
(I told him) keeping what I know:
my soul and my poor hide, although
neither calls the other friend.

What's to be done when every Yes
invites a No, entails a loss?
When saintliness incurs a cross
and certainties earn less and less?
The head works hard to sift the mess,
but since the rest is much less smart
it tends to tilt the apple cart
right back to Adam's tiff with Eve:
she want to know, he to believe.
And yet they cannot live apart.


Rhina P. Espaillat, Rehearsing Absence, University
of Evansville Press, 2001.