She looked at me with amber eyes,
The angles of her face
Spoke to me; her presence
Soothed the angry red clay
That bordered us on all sides.
Her look was an affirmation of the sun
Shining over her left shoulder
And the wind that blew rivulets in her hair.
I confess: My mouth failed me.
Dumb, I could only watch
As the effervescent clouds
Played shadows on her face
And the daylight faded into dusk.
This is the way these things happen.
Down below us, in the
Slowly, like mist rising from
The sudden influx of glacial
Runoff into warm streams,
The heat of the day brings
Forth, shimmering, a vision
Of the stone ruins that
Litter the landscape
Like the crumbling bones of forgotten ancients.
Once, on a day
Where the sun was the same,
The earth no different,
Maybe sat even a man and woman
Here today, like we sit now.
There stood proud temples,
Interspersed with dusty streets,
People called to friends from windows,
The labor of a million men
Trundled down the roads
That now sheep wander listlessly.
Perhaps, in a thousand years, the
Great city to the west will lie
In a similar state of disrepair,
The great centers of commerce
Sitting quiet, stately even through
The coat of rust that
Paints their face, and the face of the statue
In the park: Euripides, laughing
at the things that
He had seen before, and have now come to pass
Again. Surely, the tides have left,
Flowed out to sea, they may never return again,
(but we know they must).
I think of the builders of the great city.
Surely the mason must have known,
As he lay the bricks, that
His handiwork could not last forever; he
Likewise did not envision its eventual destruction.
Such thoughts are relegated
Only to the night-time, when
The flickering candle beside the bed
Mirrors the breath of the quiet observer sitting in the loft,
When simple ideas are no longer
Laughable, when the instincts suppressed in
Daytime emerge, when the
Stars in the sky trace intricate patterns with a child’s finger,
Each twitch of the hand crossing regions
Of space that a man could not
Cross in a million lifetimes.
I tell her:
There was a reclusive sage who
Lived alone in the center of a forgotten
desert; he Lived on rainwater and the small fruits
That grew in abundance in those days.
When he grew ill, close to death,
He wandered into the wilderness and
Carved words into a monolithic stone:
“I believe that the meaning of the world defies all human explanations and constructions:
What has end without beginning? Time?
What has many mouths and no belly? A river, when it exists at all,
Between ice sheets, and the world’s a jigsaw.
Monolithic time, the shattering fall
Of hour hands that tick
Tock: listen. A heartbeat. Coincidence?
Probably, but then all of life is
Probably coincidence, a
Twitch of chemicals in the
First tortured bellows of a birthing world.
We really have no idea what it would
Be to live forever. A thousand lifetimes of man: a
Thousand times the heartbreak and the pain,
The disquietude, the rolling eyes, the
Slash of the blade and the quiet decay,
Never easier, magnified a million times
When we consider the lives of people
That we touch and also hurt,
A billion years? Madness.
To know everything is the
Only cure; but what
Monstrous machine, built of
(hubris even, celestial egotism)
Could know such
Things; what thoughts
Would it keep when
Every data point was accounted for,
The operations executed, the silent heart
Humming silently to life?
What things grow in shrouded places,
Untouched by man?
Only this: hope, relentless optimism, surging death.
Brother River, what things
Have you seen? A better question-
Which can you relate?
Do the dappled shadows on your surface
Represent more than meets the eye?
When I am hurt, I bleed; when
You are hurt, you cannot bleed;
Soul: how much can you endure?
The answer: anything and everything,
And then more.
At the end of the day,
we know nothing,
Except what our body allows,
Live a short time,
And then die.
To accept and
Even learn to
Love this strange state
Of affairs: is this happiness?”
I tell her all this.
I tell her: Think of the people who once lived here.
Did they ask questions like these?