The Burden of Humans

By Michael Lavers

Featured art: Midnight at Midsummer Over the Antarctic Mainland by Frederick A. Cook

The grass just has to wave, the birds just have
to sing. The grapes don’t wonder what light is;
the light just lights them, and the grapes grape back.
The golden oaks just shed their summer dresses
on the lawn—but you? You have to read
Spinoza in the garden while the light
is good. You have to keep your focus as
the motorcycles scream out of the purple hills.
You have to sweat, and laugh, and weatherproof
the bedroom windows, and remember
names and dates, the town where your parents met—
Milk River or Swan Hills?—and when they died,
you have to sweep the kitchen floor and then
define the good, the true, the beautiful,
or try, because azaleas can’t see themselves,
the squirrels are busy, and the ferns have closed.
The frost tattoos its sermon on the rose,
but in a language only you can read;
you have to know that all things pass and perish,
and that what you’ve said is finite, but continue—
as if grand exceptions might be made—
raking the leaves, stacking the wood, hoping
the child falls asleep against your chest,
hoping the blizzard swerves, knowing the wreckage
of the present will be gathered but
not soon, and not by you, because you’re in it,
there somewhere, under the sheet of snow.


Michael Lavers is the author of After Earth, published by the University of Tampa Press. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, The Hudson Review, Best New Poets 2015, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. Winner of the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize, the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize, and the Bridport Poetry Prize, he lives in Provo, Utah, and teaches at Brigham Young University.

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