Knelt in prayer, hunched before a withered book,
Or stood at attention, faded flag in hand,
We are the slaves of metaphors and memes
Life a stone is the slave of stand,
Language of the alphabet,
A lover, floundering in darkness and dampness,
Of love itself.
Mastery is elusive.
Death drives a hard bargain
That defeats the most canny and clever among us,
And freedom is found neither
In the prayer nor the flag nor the book,
But rather in the place where all appears
Horrifyingly and irreconcilably broken:
The asphyxiating silence of caves,
The point where sand shore
And sky and ocean collide and convulse
Like the first or final desperate beat
Of heart against ribs—a throbbing that none
Can feel but by their lonesome.
I escape the trappings of the Here and of the Beyond—
The pews, the parables, the parades, the politics,
The pulse of medicine and the pulse of prayer,
The perorations, the premonitions, the pretensions—
Only to find that I am here, always here, all over again:
Shivering, wet with tears or writhing
With laughter, a mortal being
Through and through, from
Bone to tendon to muscle to mind.
I recede from the randomness and the darkness
And embrace the comfort of certainty;
Yet sometimes, I know not why,
I glimpse the Truth:
Few things happen for a reason,
Though we, ingenious and frail,
To all things a reason ascribe.
But life—mine and yours and all that inhabits the Earth—
Is not without meaning:
I was born and live and will die
Having thought and spoken and done a million things.
All but a few will disappear, never again
To be seen by eyes or witnessed by time;
Nevertheless, each word, deed, action
Carries the weight of gravity and emotion—
And a handful, done in spite of myself,
Are done as though by a God so splendid
That no one has, nor ever will,
Conceived of a thing of such perfection and beauty.