Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Below these bluffs, branch water 
like a wind in leaves 
ruffles the hollow. The rush and spill 
sings through bare timber.
Stretched in the sun on this rough rock, 
I feel the stir among the hickory buds, 
the red tips on the maple, and wonder 
who could name these sounds—the flowing 
the surging around roots and stones. 

Up north, a man too young 
to limp and stumble, with children 
not yet grown, lies in bed 
after biopsy, making what terms he can 
with a brain tumor. All winter 
it kept roaring in his ears 
with no interpreter. Now he has one. 

Downstream my wife bathes her feet 
by a sweetgum tree. 

For you, John, heaven might start like this, 
from bedrock, when one voice 
that fills all hollows 
like the voice of many waters 
stops singing in an unknown tongue.