I met pain this morning in the looking glass;
He favored me but far less handsome.
Somber there, with disheveled hair,
I suggested that he should get some rest.
For his eyes were pink, his face was drawn,
His heartache was frowningly confessed;
And though memory can call him no stranger,
There is a danger in having him again as guest.
I was afraid to ask him his purpose there:
In the past he would come unannounced,
Bearing doubt, gifts to do without—
Still, I forgave him a moment to speak.
For I am not such a one to slight a tear,
Which slid then down his unshaven cheek;
And though it hurt me to let him linger,
I raised a finger to catch that watery streak.
He sighed, “Unwelcome, yes, but I had to come
To beg of you your private shoulder;
I am tired, and of you required
A second to settle my saddened soul.
For I know in you a strength of years
Spent in the paying of a pricey toll
To cross many a bridge as they were burning,
And then learning on the span your late lessons whole.
“So listen, please, and take me a aside a spell,
Hold me as a breath within yourself;
Count the ways and the number of days
I have left you alone to dare your dreams.
But tally, too, the reasons given you
Through me to temper your self-extremes,
That you might, to hope, more greatly surrender—
Into her tender hands lay the fray of your seams.”
I hung my head before the man in the mirror,
Knowing that I must—and will—press on;
I am blessed and rightly possessed
By the will of a champion’s campaign.
And though I may weep for weeks to come,
Secretly attending my tryst with pain,
I remain thankful unto its bitterest end:
My truest friend knows where my chains remain.
—circa 2004, revisited