I Have Been a Stranger in a Strange Land (Rita Dove)

Life’s spell is so exquisite, everything conspires to break it.  
Emily Dickinson

It wasn’t bliss. What was bliss  
but the ordinary life? She’d spend hours  
in patter, moving through whole days  
touching, sniffing, tasting . . . exquisite  
housekeeping in a charmed world.  
And yet there was always  

more of the same, all that happiness,  
the aimless Being There.  
So she wandered for a while, bush to arbor,  
lingered to look through a pond’s restive mirror.  
He was off cataloging the universe, probably,  
pretending he could organize  
what was clearly someone else’s chaos.  

That’s when she found the tree,  
the dark, crabbed branches  
bearing up such speechless bounty,  
she knew without being told  
this was forbidden. It wasn’t  
a question of ownership—  
who could lay claim to  
such maddening perfection?  

And there was no voice in her head,  
no whispered intelligence lurking  
in the leaves—just an ache that grew  
until she knew she’d already lost everything  
except desire, the red heft of it  
warming her outstretched palm.

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