So much of what we learn about life comes from exchanging stories, and this poem by a Californian, Peter Everwine, portrays that kind of teaching. I love the moment where he says he doesn’t know if the story is true but it ought to be.
A Story Can Change Your Life
On the morning she became a young widow,
my grandmother, startled by a sudden shadow,
looked up from her work to see a hawk turn
her prized rooster into a cloud of feathers.
That same moment, halfway around the world
in a Minnesota mine, her husband died,
buried under a ton of rockfall.
She told me this story sixty years ago.
I don’t know if it’s true but it ought to be.
She was a hard old woman, and though she knelt
on Sundays when the acolyte’s silver bell
announced the moment of Christ’s miracle,
it was the darker mysteries she lived by:
shiver-cry of an owl, black dog by the roadside,
a tapping at the door and nobody there.
The moral of the story was plain enough:
miracles become a burden and require a priest
to explain them. With signs, you only need
to keep your wits about you and place your trust
in a shadow world that lets you know hard luck
and grief are coming your way. And for that
— so the story goes — any day will do.
Poem copyright ©2012 by Peter Everwine, whose most recent book of poems is “Listening Long and Late,” University of Pittsburg Press, 2013. Poem reprinted from Ploughshares, Winter 2012-13, Vol. 38, No. 4, by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher.