for Loyal Jones

So I came out of my rainy bower
covered with white petals dropped
from a tree. My people long ago
whose milky eyes I still can see
would have said I had a God’s plenty
of petals on me, an expression I liked
to hear as a boy because I knew
it pointed out the obvious only
to make it—just like that—completely
something else. But those people are gone
away from the world, so I had to say it
myself, the God’s plenty of petals
that fell when the little rain came down
and I happened to be under the tree.
I have no idea what plenty is
to God, but it riddles my heart to know
that someone thought about it once,
probably after a day’s work
when he was staring at a lantern
or sitting on a porch to watch
the stars enumerate themselves
and struggling to find the words
to catch it all, then finding them.

Maurice Manning’s most recent books are The Gone and the Going Away, his fifth collection of poems, and The Rag-Picker’s Guide to Poetry, co-edited with Eleanor Wilner. A former Guggenheim fellow, Manning has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is a member of The Fellowship of Southern Writers. He teaches at Transylvania University and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

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