1. Beginners, Luck
Begin any anywhere, where no matter:
A dead-battery car at the crest of a hill
is as good as started; once she rolls
and the clutch pops out with a lurch
and the engine resumes its labors,
then you may turn and go any way
you had ever planned to go; but thank
your luck you had a hill to work with.
Who in the first place gave you a hill?
Late tectonics: when crusts collide
all hill breaks loose, all hummocks
and saddles and nearly any slope.
Chin-first a rill humps up like a wrestler
bridged on his heels and helmeted head
to lever his back off the mat:
for who lays flat is lost.
Make a mountain, belly up to sky:
hard heavy lifting, but once it's done
it's done: Upfold, twist, attain a summit,
peak out, settle, freeze in place:
How high the place? Not really up to you:
Out of your hands, above your weight class.
Rely on what whatsam beneath you
imparts the shove to raise you up above.
2. Law of the Excluded Middle
After beginnings stretch middles,
the season as long as and deeper than mud.
Wear high boots, mop the floor twice as often,
Don't drive on the lawn, limit the damage
and make what progress forward you can.
The thing is: don't stop. In hell the lowest
levels, the orchestra seats, nearest
the coloraturas of flame and stink
are reserved for unbeginners, stopped dead
in our tracks by nothing much at all.
Here is the law: Something is true, or not.
Hard as this seems, arbitrary and stiff,
it is your only hope. You can use it
To prove the existence of the end.
3. Ending, Up
You middle through, beginning to taste fear
that any end you find will be found dead
three days in a small city apartment
after neighbors complain of a foul smell.
Then to your great relief: the long hike ends
in a green park, by a Metro station
at the edge of old Barcelona.
You drop your pack by a cafe table.
Gypsies gather. Let them tell your fortune.
Pay them twice what they ask. Watch their faces
for a sign of surprise, but of course not.
They knew you were coming. They have waited
all the summer's morning, speculating
on the shape of your soul, on where you keep
your traveler’s checks, on how carefully, after
pitchers of sangria, you will watch your bag,
on whether you are sent of God. In fact, you are.
The Weisskopf Variations
To understand hydrogen is to understand all of physics.
-Victor Weisskopf (1908-2002)
Imagine the Creator is a great white chicken.
She has laid every egg of existence in the same vast basket.
All is made of protons and protons are made of everything.
This is a comfort. Only the bitterest man would begrudge
such simplicity and compactness. You have met this man.
Peel, chop, sauté with butter, wait
and stir and wait until it is caramel brown.
Now you know plenty. Anything can be eaten..
Consider an ordinary chair, sturdy and plain,
like in the town library reference room,
oak-strong and competent. If you can build one,
your education is complete.
It is all here to be learned.
From the explosion of gasoline, war.
From the spinning of blades, democracy.
From the fine mist of grass that cascades
through the air on your right, parfumerie.
From August drought, bleak anguish,
from late fall mowing, the pleasures of age.
All in all from all is all,
infinite, complete. Understood:
there are no childless women.
There is no barren land.
This is how we know.
The resistance collapsed. The last fighter
came down from the hills, shaved his beard,
burned all his khakis, unloaded the guns.
He had resisted the world all along:
childhood, common sense, the urge to sleep,
a place for everything, full-length mirrors,
boredom, modernity, machinery,
bestselling novels, complexity. sports.
Even in the woods, he was hard to persuade.
When asked if the cause was lost
or how they had lived in the wilderness,
or why he had held out so long alone?
He said the cause is never lost.
He said we hunted and stole.
He said someone had to be last.