I will praise my failures. I will praise
What I have not accomplished and do not possess
Because it has led to this moment
At ten in the morning on a smoky October day,
Sitting on the bedroom floor in my bathrobe,
Treated to a rectangle of overcast sky
And a poplar whose yellow leaves,
Half blown away, are as artfully arranged
As the characters in a haiku.

I will praise my too-small apartment
With its cheap kitchen cabinets
And mismatched furniture, its jumbo litter box
Stealing half the front closet whose carpet
Is covered with pebbles. I will praise
The dun-colored carpet itself, gayer for wine stains,
And my cardboard box of a desk.
Because I have sat cross-legged there
And felt ideas alight on my shoulder like cardinals.
And my home was a mansion then,
A paradise of the new, which it is for the cats anyway
As they sleep under spider plants
In rich strips of sun.

I will praise my body whose middle-aged belly
Protrudes and whose knees have grown knobby,
This foolish animal shape who guilelessly
Stared back at me from the full-length mirror
Of a doctor’s office two days ago.
Because it is still rain- and sun-loving matter,
the same that splashed lake water as a child
And rolled like a colt in June grass.
And I am never more satisfied than when I am
Walking or pushing or lifting with it,
Loving even the ache that follows,
That assurance I am rooted with earth.

And I will praise my manila folders of failed
And abandoned poems, poems that will never be
Published or read by anyone except me.
Because not one was not perfect when first
Budding, not one did not leave the fragrance
Of possibility between these walls
Or deepen what decency I share
With damp soil and oak trees and the geese
Honking high above clouds just now,
Esteemed messengers I can hear but not see
As I sit drinking coffee, amazed
The ungainliness of my life should coalesce
Into something so sleek, so elegant,
As this sudden happiness.

Posted by kind permission of Francine Marie Tolf.

From Rain, Lilies, Luck © 2010 North Star Press of St. Cloud, Minnesota