I drink coffee so strong it burns.
The leaves scatter across the lawn, currency from a failed insurrection.
In the drawer of the fake colonial desk in the living room,
Canadian loonies, Swiss francs, even a few marks and drachmae,
Athena’s owl on one worn coin, worthless, wings folded.
If she needs darkness to fly, she needs only the little patience
The world is asking of all of us.
Patience, not wisdom.
A few brown leaves still on that oak that should come down.
It must be fifty years now since that coin came to me, change
For a coffee while I waited for the ferry in Piraeus.
As dark as this, as bitter.
The colonels were just gone. The students in the lounge quoted Ritsos.
It was easy to get a taste for the grit left at the bottom of the tiny cups.
— for Paul
Was what the I Ching replied
When all you asked was What should I intend?
It wasn’t much of a spring for intentions.
Later I opened the Tao at random.
Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles.
You see how well that worked out.
And irony? I picked up Auden—
All the little household gods have started crying—
And learned only what he and Cavafy already knew.
Those trivial unnamed, unlettered deities, freeloaders of hearth and threshold,
When did they ever help, after all,
With their routine greed, with their promises of better times?
I have left their sacrifices for the mice to enjoy.
I have stashed the pennies for the hexagrams
In the spare change jar.
Over and over, I am telling the way that cannot be told to no one.
When you next send me your broken lines,
Let me construe them for myself.
Let me understand how you found the heart
For another throw of the coins.