Buried Life

Imagine cities you’ve
Inhabited, streets
Paved in lava stone.
You never intended to pray
 
In the temples, had
Nothing to sell.
Now imagine yourself
 
Returning to those same cities.
Hunt for people you knew,
Knock on their doors.
Ask yourself
 
Where are the vases, animals
Etched in gold?
Where are the wines
 
From distant places,
Banquets ferreted
From the bowels of the earth?
While you were missing
 
Other people wore
Your garments,
Slept in your bed.
 
How frightening
The man who said
In his affliction
 
Wood has hope.
Cut down
It will flourish.
 
If the root grows old
And the trunk withers
In dust, at the scent of water
It will germinate.

James Longenbach, "Buried Life" from Draft of a Letter. Copyright © 2007 by James Longenbach.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
Source: Draft of a Letter (The University of Chicago Press, 2007)
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