Once I swore grief was the same distance
from lament as joy from praise, the same
that stretched a pillow’s wing at night, a space
I’d never close completely, I’d never lose.


You know the feeling, I’m sure: the hymn
that tends the fire inside it, that keeps it safe.
But if songs are bridges to a world in flames,
don’t bridges too catch fire. I want to believe


there is more pleasure in songs of loss
than loss in any song that pleases. But then
who could lose oneself inside a song
that never dies. One day our grieving turns


to lament the way a widow turns to her
remaining child. Is happiness any less
the widow, any less the mother who sees
herself in the one she prays she won’t


survive. One day a mother’s elegy turns
back to joy to say, don’t I know you.
Another life, perhaps. Another sun
burns its arc in the slow zero of praise


we live inside, the one that lives, keeping
its vital distance. Perhaps we see praise
in the inconsolable eyes of the living.
Seeing itself is distance. And what is praise


without seeing. What are songs without
a shape that silence gives them. See that cat
who knows less of praise than the joy
that knows no joy. I love that cat. See


the birds who, or so the songs imagine,
lament our laments, though we know
better, seeing and not seeing. Like nothing
the zeroes of these eyes, these wings.