If there is no spirit unfolding itself in history,
No gradual growth of consciousness
Beneath the land grabs and forced migrations,
The bought elections, the betrayal of trust
By party faction in the name of progress—
What about spirit in the personal realm
Unfolding slowly inside us, so slowly
That our best days seem like a holding action?
Seasons repeat themselves, but the tree
Shading the yard keeps growing.
Don’t be chagrined that the sadness you felt
This evening beside the bed of a friend
Who’s growing weaker wasn’t more profound
Than the sadness of yesterday, that you still
Can’t imagine a fraction of what he’s feeling
As the world he loves slips from his grasp,
No progress from your perspective,
But who’s to say what you might notice
If the scroll of the last few months were unrolled
On the table before you, how clear it might be
That your understanding of all you’re losing
In losing him has been slowly deepening?
Another day, you say to yourself, at dusk
As you climb your porch steps, which you notice
Could use some scraping and painting this weekend,
A fresh coat that with luck will last a year.
"Unfolding" by Carl Dennis. Text as published in The New Yorker (10/24/2011).
Art credit: "Dark Wood Stain Peeling Off," photograph by AznDragon533 (digitally altered by curator).