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  • Flute Music at Noon, and: Tamaracks, and: Happiness
  • Robert Pack (bio)

Flute Music at Noon

I watch you walking with your fluteHead high across a purple clover field;The air is still, warm leaves are mute,Silence is still to be revealed.

Flute notes upon moist lips just meanJust what they are, a silver melody,Expressing nothing in the scene.No correspondence I can see

Between your aura and the hueOf purple sweetness swirling in the breezeIs needed to enhance the trueAttraction that the aching bees

Perceive, as I perceive the notesComposed together, one by silver one,On which your passing presence floatsUntil you vanish in the sun. [End Page 38]


Now comes the turning of the tamaracks,The only evergreen to lose its needle leaves,From yellow gold to gold to golden bronzeAnd their reflections which the lake retrieves.

And I am wondering if pleasure from the past,Which soon of course these sights will be,Brings sadness in the knowledge that they're goneOr restoration in their memory.

Do I see what is there as there? Or isMy sense of modulating light so strongThat gold already now seems bronze,And even naming bronze as bronze seems wrong.

Yet there they are, I see them in their glow;I see them doubled in the lakeAs if my eyes, unlike my shifting mind,Are of this world, and won't make the mistake [End Page 39]

Of losing touch with happinessBy asking of trees what they cannot give-Gold meaning or gold permanence-But only live as ghostly colors live.


    So what then might you single out    as the most happy moment of your life?

The memory that leaps first into mindis swimming in a lake to nowherein particular, feeling my body's glide,easy and smooth, stroke by untiring stroke,as if I could go on forever withno need to rest, no need even to thinkof anything but being where I was,right there, right then, the luminescent watersliding out and dripping from the curvemade by my lifted arm, catching the sparksof slanting red and orange evening light.

    Is that all you might mean by happiness,    just bodily well-being, the illusion    nothing will change-the moment so complete,    contained within itself, that it might seem    as if it were eternity? Shouldn't    your one defining moment be much more [End Page 40]

    than fleeting pleasure, more than freedom from    disturbing thoughts of time, ongoing flux?    Shouldn't high happiness involve someone    you love for whom you make a sacrifice    to carry you beyond your single self?

Well, we were driving home that foggy night,having an argument, the crudest kindof argument about how much she spenton a dumb hat, and what made it still worse-the hat was shiny black, a color shewell knew I hate; hot red or cobalt bluewould say to me that she had purchased itto please my taste, fashion be damned,but no, it was all black, prophetic black.A car pulled out from the oncoming lane-there was no way of my avoiding it,so what I chose to do was spin our carsharp to the right hoping the impact ofthe crash would land on me and maybe she'dsurvive. In that huge instant as the glasssplashed on my face like sudden water froma swimmer's arm, before my widened mindironically went black, I was contentwith what I'd done, more than content; I'm sure,beyond my fear, I felt pure happiness,the kind you asked about. I'd passed the testthat my philosophy required: I wasthe person I'd prepared myself to be.

    Does that defining moment still provide    meaning enough to take you to the end    your dark philosophy foresees-and can    proving you truly loved her, still outweigh    all that you know about the suffering    nature inflicts upon us all, to which we add    the special curse of human cruelty:    betrayal and ingratitude and bombs? [End Page 41]

When I woke from the...


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