Listen to John Hodgen read this poem.
The old woman asks if she can have her sunglasses just a tranquil darker,
and the optometrist, without blinking an eye, does not trifle with her,
says he can do that, says he’ll take care of that for her.
And I think for a moment he is William Wordsworth listening to Dorothy,
her spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, her perfect tranquillity.
Or maybe he is God himself, the great optometrist, or at least that dim image
we strain to see of the omniscient god who mostly does not trifle with us.
The occasional hat flown off our heads, perhaps, the tossed banana peel
with the businessman’s wingtip approaching, the hurtling safe heading
down for our heads, all of us so intensely looking elsewhere, as if our lives
were God’s New Yorker cartoons, all his back issues stacked up, the ones
with the Elizabeth Bishop poems, teetering, in his waiting room.
Mostly He gives us our due, God, or Wordsworth for that matter, for the things
we choose to believe in, the things we say we’ll see if we can do, like loving
each other, like being true, like the woman who accompanies her husband,
the lawn mowing man, and sits on the steps of the houses he goes to.
(See her, by the daffodils?) She watches him moving from row to row,
loves the ease with which he moves, sees the lawn changing right before
her eyes, like some eye chart of I’s and E’s slowly coming into view,
her love for him the one thing that is perfectly clear.
It is as if they live in some peripheral light that is always glowing,
that we can see sometimes, like a lark that flares up suddenly
out of the corner of our eyes, somehow always lifting
from this cock-eyed part of the world, away from the glare,
to some other place where everything is just the way we want it,
just a tranquil darker.