There is a beauty
	To every place,
	No matter
	How dull or drear,
	Nor where
	On earth
	It lies 'twixt
	Rolling, roaring
	Seas.  The
	Frigid northern ice
	Gleams sharp
	And keen
	'Neath that same
	Glossy moonlight
	Which speckles
	My Virginia wood.
	Oh, what
	Rough bark
	Coats these ancient trees,
	Rubbing, tearing
	At my hand,
	As I try
	To sense what
	Makes them real?
	Tall in the sun
	They stand;
	Somber in the
	Murky moonlight.
	They were here
	Before me--
	And will watch
	Silently when
	I am gone.
	I call them beautiful;
	Do they think me
	The same?
	Surely they sense
	My timid touch,
	My questing words
	Unspoke, as I
	Try to unpuzzle
	Why they
	Live and die.
	Why do I?
	Every step I take
	Leads me
	Through a forest
	As thick
	As God's own hair.
	Knowing why--
	'Twould mean so much!
	But God
	Trusts me not
	With his secrets now.
	Perhaps he never did.
	I have lost
	So much, it seems,
	When determined
	I was
	It would not be so.
	Wiser sages than I
	Sadly shook
	Their hoary heads;
	They knew
	How vain was I.
	But the moonlight
	Is so sweet!
	The wind,
	So full of strength
	And wonder!
	How can this
	All end,
	End in bitter ashes,
	Ghosts, echoes,
	Nothing more?
	Am I dead
	But perceive it not?
	Some do die
	But wander still,
	Unrealizing their flesh
	Is gone
	And they are no more.
	Has my soul
	Fled and forgot
	To tell me so?
	Cruel joke
	If it be true!
	But, ah--
	I know I yet live.
	I have not
	Striven yet
	With all my demons
	Dark and cold.
	I have not
	Put to rest
	Those things left undone
	Ere I won
	My last life's freedom,
	Nor that before,
	Nor before that, too.
	Did I call
	My demons dark and cold?
	They are not,
	Or else seem not so.
	No, they shine
	In sunlight glimmering
	On lakes and seas,
	In gleaming moonbeams
	And starry jewels.
	Such foes are worthy
	Of men!
	Do I not feel
	Their lances
	Each time my glance
	Chances upon
	The moonlight leaping
	Across my lawn?
	Every sunrise,
	Every flower rich and pure,
	Every soft and subtle
	Beauty, whether
	Man or beast,
	Is a jeering dare
	To joust,
	To risk all I am
	To understand.
	Oh God!
	If all be true
	That others say,
	I came here
	What must be borne,
	What won and lost.
	But the cost
	Is still more dear
	That I would pay,
	If my earth-bound self
	Could have its way.
	I do not know
	If I do
	Right or wrong!
	Struggle, struggle, struggle
	All day long--
	For what?
	To be a better soul?
	Do better souls
	From bitter humans come?
	The choices
	Are almost more
	Than I can bear.
	If I could see
	Just one clear path!
	To know
	The road I'm on
	Is the
	Straight and narrow way!
	How did
	The ancient seaman feel
	As at the wheel
	He stood,
	And turned his ship
	Where none before
	Had ever dared to go?
	The country
	Of the soul
	Has no map--
	And I do not know
	Whether 'tis toward
	Hell or heaven
	That I go.


© Fred O'Bryant. All rights reserved.

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