1 That was the year midsummer's heatwave knocked us all for loops: cats, squirrels up, down, round the oak and sycamore, mobbed the birdbath, scratched in frenzy at the camel-back packed earth. Birds veered cockeyed, whomped the kitchen window. Grass snakes frizzled on the concrete path. That was the year mosquitoes failed to guzzle, as I drifted by the parched Kishwaukee river, caught up with my wife and daughter for a turn around the park. Faltered as I stepped down from the bridge. 2 That was the year the paramedics strapped me in the helicopter, pointed me to stars, in fits and starts between the cockleburrs of galaxies, my eyes blurred up with ghosts of mayhem, fireflies, outcasts sifting garbage on hot city streets. That was the year on hold. Riddled with lifelines in an alien bed, I thumbed the Sunday bookpage, stared at faces of those Auschwitz children waiting a turn upon the Zyklon carrousel--near the last photograph of Primo Levi, their fire-eyed witness, before he took his life, slamming the door on half a century's pain. 3 And this year, botched up once again, oxygen mask in place, heart monitor intact, cut off from warzone static, buzz and scuttle of the misery out there. My wife, my dearest friend, stroked the blue flower round the IV in my arm, coaxed darkness from my eyes. With tapestries of words sent acrobatic sparrows rising like last autumn's leaves from fresh-turned soil, wove flocks of scarlet tanagers above gold-sovereign dandelions, unthreaded winter hair of willows greening into spring. And this year, back full circle in the summer heat, I know for all it lacks this world is still the only place, and walking in a flame of sunset I have things to do.