Thou Art Careful and Troubled About Many Things 
by Jessica Lynne Henkle
“The rains, which should have come in early summer, withheld themselves, and day after day the skies shone with fresh and careless brilliance.” – Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth 
“Let no man say, ‘What is this?’ ‘Why that?’ Let him not say so, for he is man.” – St. Augustine, The Confessions 
If you spent your whole life walking through a forest
holding a basket that held one apple, just one, and you
clung to that basket and that apple with clenched fists
while you took hurried steps, and no matter what else
came along, still you clung because you were convinced
–oh, how you knew–that this basket, this apple, was
your purpose, your blood, and all else needed to and would
fall by the wayside, so you and this basket could walk on,
and if you thought that surely by now, you and your basket
would’ve gotten somewhere–and okay, maybe the scenery
looks different, but it’s still the same road, and there’s no way
to tell how long until the end–and if you got tired of hearing
people on one side of the path tell you to keep going, hold on
tight to the basket, and people on the other tell you to switch
roads, let the basket go, and if you learned that nothing was
ever what it seemed, but had no idea what to do with that fact,
you would start to feel the strength leaking from your body, like
someone had cut slits along your surfaces the way you score
the upper pie crust, and when you’re brought under the heat, all
your steam would escape like water leeched out of overworked
ground, and you would look around you and start to wonder what
on earth you’ve been doing, and why, and then you would look
down at that basket in your hands, the apple that it held, and
suddenly, you wouldn’t remember why it seemed so important,
and you would drop to your knees and you would also drop the
basket, neither knowing nor caring if you ever picked it up again,
and you would lift your head and cry out to the skies and to the trees,
to the birds and the squirrels they housed, cry to the God who made
them all and commanded them to flourish and grow, and you would
scream these words of W.S. Merwin’s: “Send me out into another life,
Lord, because this one is growing faint. I do not think it goes all the
way,” and then, in the deep, dead silence you would wait, and maybe
a wind would blow in and tip over the basket, and the apple would
roll out and go into the woods, where it would decay and its seeds
would drop into the soil, and if the rains came, they would water the
ground, and maybe it would take years, but a tree might start to grow,
and it would also bear fruit and send out apples of its own–only you
would never know this, because you would still be on your knees, on
the road, face tipped to the sky and your mouth cracked dry, waiting for
an answer that will not speak in the language of demands and if only.