Listen to Ben Howard read "Signals" and "Early Retirement:"
Falling through the cracks, we sometimes call it,
as though the urgent message left unanswered,
the note unread, the inquiry deleted,
had tumbled into nothingness, their substance
never to be mentioned or remembered.
And yet what signals they must send, those lost
documents and forfeited occasions,
whose stars still burn, light-years though they be
from those who might have thoughtfully responded
had they but stopped and jotted down the numbers.
Easy to take the days as they accrue,
absent a class to teach, an irony
to explicate, a question to address.
Easy to opine on happiness,
having the leisure now, if not the wisdom,
and living in a self-elected vacuum
that feels, some mornings, like a slow implosion.
And happiness? Or failing that, immersion
in gratified desire? Absent the old
intransigent demands, the days unfold,
bringing at last a little breathing room
and well-wrought thoughts to stay the rush of time.
Ben Howard’s sixth collection of poems, Leaf, Sunlight, Asphalt, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2009. Entering Zen, a collection of his essays on Zen practice, is forthcoming from Whitlock Publishing; read his blog on the practice of Zen meditation at practiceofzen.wordpress.com. He is Emeritus Professor of English at Alfred University.