by Dorianne Laux
Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor—
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes—
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.
from What We Carry © BOA Editions, 1994
Reprinted with permission. Buy now
We have all had moments when some voice seems to speak the truth to us out of a sudden stillness of mind, giving us the solution to a long-held problem, or offering an image or line of such striking beauty we immediately need to capture it. Insights often come at the most unexpected moments too, as Dorianne Laux suggests in “Dust,” when we’re occupied with something else, like “working . . . in the garden, moving rocks.” They are not always pleasant, however, these brushes with honesty; as the poet Rilke once wrote in his Duino Elegies: “Every angel is terrifying.” And the taste of truth is “like a fine powder, like dust” that might float away or fade if we don’t find a way to pause and hold onto it. I keep this poem taped to my bedroom wall, I think, because revelation and inspiration often seem to come to me in the most surprising forms, and at such inconvenient times—while I’m riding my bike, driving on the highway, or as I’m just beginning to fall asleep, “too tired” to reach for a notebook and pen. “Dust” reminds me to make myself get up, to keep going, even when I don’t want to, and throw open the window, so the simple truth can move through me and into my life.