Linda Whittenberg


I like to imagine Paradise as a rambling old house,
a bit down-at-the-heels,
one of those grand seaside Victorians
that go on and on, with a big wrap-around porch
for rocking and looking out at Infinity.
Heaven’s front door, I imagine wide open
to let in the sea breeze and to welcome,
not only the polished and perfect,
but all the rest—misspoken words,
foolhardy plans, unfinished art,
good intentions that ended up
making things worse.
Out back is a weathered barn
for engines, pulled and never remounted,
cans of wrong-color paint, crashed kites,
carpentry projects that didn’t work out.
A basement, too, with plenty of space
for photographs by the millions—friends lost,
marriages broken, unidentifiable faces.
Under the stairs, uniforms worn in lost wars,
violins gathering dust.
Disappointed loves are so many
they need a storeroom of their own.
Heaven’s rafters, surely, are stained with tears
for all the dreams that died young.
The Great Story Universal glories
in winners and a solid finish,
but, I believe,  there must be glory
as much for the brave start.
I like to picture myself stretched out
on that grassy lawn that rolls down to the ocean,
I’d lie there content, under the willow,
no fretting over mistakes or defects
or what I didn’t get done.
The others like me,
incomplete, less than perfect,
they’d be on the porch, laughing
at stories about their fumbles and quirks.