By Robert Cording
Featured Art: The Pink Cloud by Henri-Edmond Cross
Sixty-six, my shoulders rounded, my arches flattening,
I am, Lord, a small man, now a full inch shorter,
I’m told, than I once was. And so I pray
that my end-of-life diminishment might prove the occasion
for some late opening of my cramped borders,
this no-exit, small country of the self.
Lord, what I wouldn’t give for a lifting up
to be free of this strange human gift of making
something less out of something,
each day stunting the fresh opportunity—
as your better servant William Blake saw—to become
the towering giant, the four-fold angelic power
you wanted us to be, if only we didn’t make ourselves
tiny with our incessant self-interest, our hearts
clamped around our enemies,
our narrow sympathies and unrelenting prideful gloom.
Lord, at every moment I have been a beginner,
lost in the bewildering wilderness of my ignorance.
Now that I am smaller, I pray that it will be
easier to recede from the center of my picture
and find this unexpected reprieve from vanity.
Let everything around me grow taller Lord
and more vivid, newly made, like these autumn maples
oranging the air, or this roadside red-tailed hawk,
its wingspan blinding as it crosses my windshield,
the road for a moment dark, then bright,
bearing me on, a small man nearing his exit.
Robert Cording has published eight collections of poems: Life-list (Ohio State University Press/Journal award, 1987); What Binds Us To This World (Copper Beech Press, 1991); Heavy Grace, (Alice James, 1996); Against Consolation (CavanKerry, 2002); Common Life, (CavanKerry, 2006); Walking With Ruskin (CavanKerry, 2010), A Word in My Mouth: Selected Spiritual Poems (Wipf and Stock, 2013), and, most recently, Only So Far (CavanKerry, 2015).
Originally published in Issue 19.