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The Mass Has Ended Go in Peace

—not in knowledge, but in calm; not in indifference,
but nearly. Under bullying fog the white houses
stand with effort on the coast, the tides teasing
the scrub blue, the land beneath hassled by waves,
drowning in salt-wine. The lichen, as scalloped and ridged
as the cliffs, breathes red and gold; its smell, like the waft
of earth to heaven, is nearly imperceptible, a touch of fish-rot
and smoke. (I asked, Lord, for stillness and lack of concern.)
The town here could be wiped clean from the land—
no streak or smear of roofs, no smudge of walls.
But the people go on painting the village white.
The weathered wood chokes on its dust; the new whiteness
laughs through fog. I asked for acceptance and got the reek
of paint and a bright house. I can see inside the house: a woman,
sweating and bent, putting away the rollers and the cans.

K. A. Hays

Early Creatures, Native Gods
Carnegie Mellon University Press

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