David Baker, “Heaven”

Heaven (from The Atlantic)
David Baker

All afternoon the sprinkler ticks and sprays,
ticks and sprays in lazy rounds, trailing
a feather of mist. When I turn it off,
the cicadas keep up their own dry rain,
passing on high from limb to limb.
I don’t know what has shocked me more,
that you are gone, that I am still here,
that there is music after the end.


To keep loving someone, to know you will keep loving someone is small solace immediately after their loss. But eventually it becomes the everyday: you know you remember.

We make machines that tick and release in rhythm, over and over. The sprinkler creates the mist with its streams. Every subsequent stream rises, but only follows the mist of what was before. An upward reaching is done separately and together, both at once.

One might say the machines we make mirror wistful longings more than anything actually in nature. Fair enough. There are insects that release tick-like noises in rhythm. Their clatter communicates to human ears below signs of life, but it also communicates directly to other cicadas in the trees.

“Music after the end” – only rhythms and silences framed with hope. It is quietly beautiful, to know you’ve been given something you will never give up. The hope of following one’s greatest love in that love is made good, simply by persevering. What we needed to know – what they can tell us – is that for all our failings and losses, we still can give and receive.

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