If life is but a dream, and time, a collapsible cup,
then who’s to say the stranger in the car next to yours—
smiling at the big tree you have strapped into the front seat
of your convertible as you drive home from the nursery—
was not, after all, the most felicitous of husbands,
better, even, than you’d dared to hope?
Simple enough to shift what might have been into what was,
to remember how you dug the hole together, lowered it
trunk and root, turning it like this, like this. That was when
you were just starting out, the way running straight and long
through the town where you lived; not yet the treacherous
curve; not yet the cross at the side of the road.
And how much a family car can hold! Detritus of decades
brimming from boxes, bleeding through paper bags,
your hand light on the wheel through the long drive
and the children asleep in the back, or singing merrily, merrily,
love, like breath, fogging the windows; small fingers
tracing their names. And if it all passed in an instant,
a comfort now to know you had your life of ordinary good,
of love’s tart fruits, its showery blossoms.
And now he is gone, lost up ahead somewhere and you
won’t see him again. But that, you recall,
was the deal you made when you smiled back: the past,
once yours, you wouldn’t trade for any other,
ringed by the past you’re living now—here,
beside the big tree, whose spreading arms will shade it.