Heaven for Helen

Mark Doty

Helen says heaven, for her,
would be complete immersion
in physical process,
without self-consciousness –

to be the respiration of the grass,
or ionised agitation
just above the break of a wave,
traffic in a sunflower’s thousand golden rooms.

Images of exchange,
and of untrammelled nature.
But if we’re to become part of it all,
won’t our paradise also involve

participation in being, say,
diesel fuel, the impatience of trucks
on August pavement,
weird glow of service areas

along the interstate at night?
We’ll be shiny pink egg cartons,
and the thick treads of burst tyres
along the highways in Pennsylvania:

a hell we’ve made to accompany
the given: we will join
our tiresome productions,
things that want to be useless for ever.

But that’s me talking. Helen
would take the greatest pleasure
in being a scrap of paper,
if that’s what there was to experience.

Perhaps that’s why she’s a painter,
finally: to practise disappearing
into her scrupulous attention,
an exacting rehearsal for the larger

world of things it won’t be easy to love.
Helen I think will master it, though I may not.
She has practised a long time learning to see.
I have devoted myself to affirmation,

when I should have kept my eyes on the ground.