Morning, and the river
gives up its cold.

Sit. Breathe. Each moment
its own kerning.

Listen for the breath behind a breath,
the river rivering.

Light angles down and through,
returning light,
green gesso of water.

The artist says on canvas, layers
of clear varnish allow luminosity—
Vermeer's bruised-pear light.

Everything's allowed
but now, you've learned
light has a price.

Only shade exposes ledge
and drop-off, what light hides.

A dry stone--blue dust, chalk.
It says stay.
A wet stone—black, unblinking lizard eye.
It says go.

Whatever you decide, this day will go.

One bird's song
can pull you from your breath.

Sit. Breathe.
There's kindness in the world,
small, silver, out of reach.

—Susan Elbe
First appeared in 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, Issue 6 (October 2006)

(image: John Paul Jenkins)