Limited Magic

The mist the sun cannot burn from the pond

turns out to be down, silk Tinker Toys shrunk
smaller than burs, the frayed inflatables
poplars drop.
I don’t mean to deny time

its due.
Because I know:
for the fluff cottonwoods cough

to loiter on the water
like vapor, like fog,

outlasting the heavy breath day bakes off
these pools in the woods–
well, it has the look
of a miracle, maybe,

but the truth is
that this batting, these faerie paratroops:
they’re goners, too.

Soon enough
the air will clear and the ducks plow
and the pond swallow
what I took for mist,
for magic.

. . .

There are other ways to say this.

has its half-life and everything its infirmity.

On average, a man’s life lasts twice as long
as a poplar’s.
On average, a pond
is just a little stew in an earth bowl, set down
for the sun to sup on.

And that hungry one,
the sun–I hear even he’s half done.

Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have previously appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, and TriQuarterly, as well as other journals and magazines. Find her at, and on Twitter: @_janezwart_.

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