Author: Jennifer Koiter

“…our life should be lived as tenderly and daintily
as one would pluck a flower.” — Thoreau

Of course he retches,
approaching the moose
cow his party shot
and felled, her unborn calf
dying with her, blood pooling
with her milk on the forest floor.
Of course his thoughts turn
to a pretty flower
clutched in a girlish fist, or
— better — held gently, not to bruise
the wilting thing. So small a hurt,
so little chance the earth will open up
and she be dragged down
by the hair, the flower dropped
and trampled, earth grieving
for the loss of what was loved.
Never can we do no harm, only try to
do a little less, so pinch the stem
at the base, where it gives the most
satisfying snap, and pluck
the flower — ah,
tenderly, tenderly, this
tenderness is the last
violence left to us.

Karna knows       his brother’s father will come
while he worships at sunrise       to beg his armor
his father has warned him       he knows

he will choose       to be known
as generous       cutting the gold from his flesh
and handing it over       still dripping

though after this alms       after curse after curse
he will die at his brother’s hand
no strength left       the sun behind a cloud

from then on men will see themselves in Karna
and name their sons for his brother       for victory
instead of generosity and pain

meanwhile       Karna wakes at dawn
to worship       meanwhile       his father
the sun       will warm his back

For a moment I got it, didn’t I,
dirt and dry grass, orange
whirr of a startled locust,
cloud-mottled mountains, song
I overheard and loved and knew
I would forget?

Arjuna waited,
Krishna’s careful philosophy
just so much wind in his hair,
until Krishna came as God to him.
Then he begged God to be Krishna again.
Then they turned, and rode into battle as men.

Even a glimpse is too much, quickly
we turn back. But we remember
waiting, wondering what to ask.
Mountains in the middle distance.
Prairie dust. At each step,
crunch of spiny grasses underfoot.