On the Sorrow God Pours into the Little Boat of Life

And God was there like an island I had not rowed to.

—Anne Sexton, The Awful Rowing Toward God

I stand in the Punk Rock aisle of Rhino Records
mindlessly watching an old video of a Supremes
concert, trying not to think of anything, really,
giving myself to sounds from fifty years ago
that celebrate nothing now except my own youth,
my own Sixties when the world was ending
and beginning all over again, and it would be
all about love and the absence of war forever
once Nam was over, and the lies would stop,
and the boys would come back home, and Nixon
and McNamara and Westmoreland would pay
the price, and that’s of course when it happens
and I can’t stop it, my son died last week,
until the young woman standing next to me
bends down quickly, reaching to help pull me up,
and I try to make a joke of it, saying Thank you.
You know, fifty years ago I would have asked you
to dance
, and she says, Sir, I would be happy
to dance with you
, and so we do for a few seconds
there in the middle of the Punk Rock aisle, she is
so very sweet, I am terribly sorry for your loss,
and I thank her, and once again I know as if by
physical touch alone the innocence and kindness
of the hopeful before the world disappoints them
and it all seems like some awful rowing toward God
in a hard rain, one wave, one lie, after another, and
they are so tired, the oars so heavy, that they slowly
open their hands and pray and lean into the dark.

B.H. Fairchild