The Layers

By Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives, some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.

When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites, over which scavenger angels wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends, those who fell along the way, bitterly stings my face,

Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road precious to me.

In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered and I roamed through wreckage, a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:

“Live in the layers, not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

Notes:

Used Ostara 2013 for women’s retreat

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