Only So Much by Rachel Hadas
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”