A Barren Mind
In response to “Beachy Head” by Charlotte Smith
I have no rock sublime on which to stand
And ponder God’s creative act, no sky
High-flung for millions of miles above
My head, no stars in sacred orbitals,
Indeed, no nature anywhere. Instead,
An asphalt carpet alienates my feet
And cardboard, concrete dolls’ dilapidated
Warehouse hallways frame my bedlam blues.
Besides, had I a symphony of stone,
A full-voice choir—sixteen parts—of planets,
A landscape fit for painting in my head:
I would not sing an ex nihilo song.
Not I. Why ponder on beginnings, fiat,
When what’s made is burgeoning to bursting
In your brain, when you have spoken worlds
In words and lined the universe with rhyme?
No such stuff is in my thoughts. I think
About the other end: the end, finis,
When rocks and sky collide and stars confide
Their last lamentings to their empty space,
When cliffs invert and valleys leap, when views
Of vivid beauty say what they have meant,
When I am severed from my mortal me,
Released from urban’s smogged humanity.
What then? Why then, the terror closes in.
That’s when the finite opens up, that’s when
Both speed and distance multiply the dark.
There is a void. The endlessness is fear.
Like waves with curling wave-tips, without sand;
Like pebbles falling, never hitting ground;
Like echoes shouted, never coming back:
A soul untethered, ricochet, rebound,
A boomerang of self without a source.
Out there the longings turn to nakedness.
No images of white clouds, castled lands,
Auriferous streets, and music visible
Have any commerce with the horror there.
Picnickers ignore all haunted caves.
But caves are vortexes, and swallow sun,
Swallow themselves, swallow the swallowing,
Make dizzy my desires in a shriek.
The problem is a three-dimensioned mind.
Shapes devoid of sides can only leer
So what do I expect out there? Somewhere
Where words like where are points without a plane—
Or all is plane, and plain, and points the way—
There’s light. There must be light, because the dark
Is very dark indeed, so dark I cannot see
Beyond itself and therefore think it’s all.
It could be all. What I don’t believe
Could very well be just the thing I feel.