On the Evening of the Winter Solstice

On the Evening of the Winter Solstice

When the sun sets
in December far
to the south, when the last light
of that solsticial day strikes
the rising flanks of the mountain, something
climbs out of my body and begins
to ascend the cold sky, shedding
its weight of years
and crippled birds,
to an infinity
of blazing suns.

It is on that day that I know
the inevitability
of dissolution,
that I know the worm and bacteria
are kings of far more
than the soil, and that the air
I breath was breathed
by Christ, Buddha, Judas,
and all the uncounted legions of the dead.

It is then that I know before
long the iron of my blood
will unclench itself
from my blood to become
a meadowlark, a mole, a fish,
a rusting nail, that the long
bones of my body will wash
to the sea to become
Nautilus and coral reef,
and my breath become the sharp wind
of mountain ridges,
the sighing breath of trees.

What is a man?
By himself,
nothing, but as a decaying
leaf, a rotting plank
that will one day become
again a great pine,
a wolf born to run down
the heaving flanks
of a mountain meadow
made flesh,
that is a man.

Let him take comfort,
knowing that he may one day
become a child and the air
that will fill the lungs
of a child as it takes
its first breath, the cry
by which he announces himself
to sky and earth.