Lottery Tickets and the Odds of Retirement: A Meditation

Now night’s little rain
comes gentle as the green
of seasons not yet arrived,
silent as the gray that claims
each bristle in my beard. I woke to the tapping
brushes of water, pulled into
my post-sleep musings
on the crumbling republic.
Given that I have less
to worry about than
the middle-aged welder
who works to join thesis
statement and body paragraph
in the Wednesday night
purgatory of my class,
a hurdle he must cross before
he can learn programming,
or the printer who went to work
to find the shop closed and now
must choose between nursing
and culinary arts, I should
close my book, try again
for sleep. Instead of counting
sheep or raindrops, I could
try to number the days until
retirement. Still too many
to calculate. And since I lack
the gambler’s poise and seldom
buy lottery tickets, since
there are no bricks of gold
nesting in the roots
of the family tree, work,
as Guy Clark sang, will be
my middle name. For
a while longer. But I can last
a few more years if the flock
of yellow birds that swarmed
the tree outside my office
last spring returns to tell me
this moment is all
the life we have or need to have.
Random sights, like the wire-
perched bluebird I saw
yesterday, the little tongues
of crocuses splitting
cold dirt remind me how odd
and wonderful it is
to live in a place where
bluebirds appear in February.
So maybe it won’t seem so long
until I’m driving home from
my last day, my chest opening
like an accordion filled with sky
as I name the philosophers
Wittgenstein, KantI can read
now that I have time.
Schopenhauer. The symphonies
I will finally absorb. But
the next morning, I will probably
sleep late, read one more
thin book of poems or a thriller
from the used book store,
listening to records I’ve played
so long I barely hear them.
But on the ride home, cruising
a universe adept at the bait
and switch, the three card monte,
I might forget I’ve spent
four decades saving for poverty.
So I might stop and spend
the ones in my pocket for
a few lottery tickets,
my share of the gambler’s dream,
the turn for the better
my students work for.
In the silence of my car,
I’ll scratch away the silver
facing, whole and electric
in that moment, each breath
a summons to the hope
that still brings me
to the work each day requires.