Today – Jack Buckingham

Jack Buckingham

Imagine today was the last in a lifetime
The last you would live, and you knew upon waking,
Without knowing why, except that mortality
Shadows its flock like a ranging wolf
And picks off its prey when it chooses,
Without knowing how, to the raging flood
Of thoughts of terrible endings, enemies,
And a carpetbag of recent medical tests
And tossaway ailments that could have been checked
Without knowing when, exactly the time,
Except it would happen in the day’s veering course.

To tell your loved ones scrambling for breakfast?
To keep them beside you, near, around you
This one uncommon time, in a family hurrah?
But if death swept tragically, then your children,
Your wife . . . not to be thought of again.
Better by far that they grieve unknowing
Than prepare a family grave yourself, and know.

So you drink in the rain of another morning
Tumbling from the bathrooms in sequence,
One with a project due this Wednesday
And barely half-way done, his kid sister
Bursting to leave, she’s taller this season
And primed to be picked at the tryouts today
For shooting goals. You watch them through the blinds
Till next door’s solid hedge blocks all vision
And propels them to vanishing points far beyond school.
Will you see them again tonight, or instead
Will they be seeing you? Suddenly troubled,
You call to your wife of a later appointment,
Retreat to the study, hope not to face her
This moment. Mumbling and late herself,
She pops in her head, little more, and sweeps awav
With the faintest scent of disquiet, puzzlement,

Alone now to wait, for there seems no reason
To soldier to work, or ring in excuses.
No question either of driving to the hills
And the fern-dripping walk to the crisp sound
Of lyrebirds, and the little wooden bridge to view
The roaring cascade of winter water, once more.
Driving, perhaps, is the means today, careering
Down hillsides, or a heart to stop beating
Remote in woodland, missing and fretted for.
And better to be outdoors, the house itself
Was for living, and you’d feel Janice would surely move
If she or the- kids returned home, to that.

So you sit on the landing, shiver a little
Beneath a slate grey sky. Pinpricks of drizzle
Are settling, and persist. The dog
Has shuffled off to a scrap of shelter,
Giving up thoughts that you’ll play’
And the moments grow, and are lost, as day moves on,
And somehow you reflect, it occurs
In the blankness of day, with no umbrella
And a cascade unseen, that now you know
How you woke this morning and shook to see
That today was all your life, and then no more.