Only So Much

I bend to the open notebook; distracted, turn my head.
Tiny brown ants are climbing up a stalk of goldenrod.

It isn’t clear what goal they hope to reach.
I pick up a sharpened pencil, start to sketch.

A passing cloud; the sky goes dull. I shut
the notebook and open it from the back, to write.

There is only so much we can notice all at once.
Now this morning’s dream makes an appearance:

packed lecture hall where students overflow
to aisles and floor. What do they want to know?

I have the sense they’re gathered here to learn
some kind of surgery. The brain donation

card, wallet-size, arrived in this morning’s mail.
I close the notebook. The patient ants still crawl.

A sudden breeze: the grasses toss their tops.
Wild strawberry runners are clambering over this rock,

where, if I sat here long enough, eventually
the tough, lithe tendrils would also crisscross me.

I could climb down from my temporary tower,
go to the house and fill a glass with water,

get out my watercolors, dip my brush,
memorialize this moment with a wash

of color; sketch the runners, trace a border,
as if imitation equalled order.

Or I could take a walk down to the brook
or stretch out in the hammock with a book

or let my thoughts’ red runners trace a line
to the null magnet of my husband’s brain,

the hospital where he’s “undergoing observation,”
the arid wide plateau of the condition—

a battleground to which I will return.
But there is room for only so much attention.

— Rachel Hadas, “Only So Much”

Source: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/20...