Pascal’s Walk

Even now how easy to believe
The earth the whole of nature, to see
Creation’s handiwork within the tidy
Summation of an acre – imagining
The sun and planets strung like ornaments
From a great cathedral’s vaulted ceiling
Where angels gaze as longingly at us
As we at them as if through some half-understood
	But there is nothing
As we imagined it. No cogged invention
Tugs the earth or wheels the day toward night.
In place of machination
The world’s motion is expressible
By nothing more than floats the leaf to earth.
After creation’s calamity
The stars still fall from the shaken tree—
We with the sun (our slate of worlds with us)
And the sun itself—a billion years
Falling through the Milky Way, itself
A billion suns among the infinite billions
Of galaxies.
	Yet pick a stone to look at,
The seed and blade of grass. Suppose
An atom were to you an earth. You’d see
Another world as seemingly divisible—
As if there were a stone inside the stone,
As if within the leaf another leaf
Subsided, slipping to an Earth too small 
To be perceived—an infinite library
Of worlds containing worlds within them—as if
However intricate our contemplation,
Whatever grandeur we imagine, wonder
Begets wonder as though there were no boundary
To breadth or diminution.
	Yet suppose
Someday we tally every particle
Of dust? Suppose the ending and beginning
Is knowable?
	There still will be the plumb,
The sweeter being yours and mine; there still
Will be your eyes, as blue as plumbs and green
As oceans. Give to me an afternoon
To walk with you through cinquefoil fields;
A summer’s night to count the fireflies
Beneath the acrobatic moon; a day to pocket
The sparrow’s song; to bring the skipping winds
Of April by. If all that’s granted us
Is here and there a little acre, let’s gather,
While we can, the brome grass and the lavender,
And bind them to a kitchen rafter. There
Their paint can dry and there their leaves and petals
Can fall, of those that do, to stipple shadows
By the door; what if there’s an acre
Inside the petal?—a kitchen like our own?—
Or just like ours, a dooryard’s locusts black 
With rain, their shoots and branches pitched across
The road and sidewalk? Let none belittle
Out little rooms, our worlds within the world,
Or that we keep in them our finite wares,
Like children loving what they love because
It’s theirs. But if, in the immensity
Of all we know, we only truly know
Each other, let the cogged invention turn,
The springs unwind that daily vault the sun
And moon into the sky, no telescope 
Will ever put to chart your heart or mine, 
Where blood and love combine. There’s no equation
Suffices to explain desire. What drives
The leaf to clutch the air, its roots to anchor
In the mire and crumbling bones of broken days
May be too much to ask—the blossom
Its only answer. Let there be the angels;
The oceanic blossoming of stars
To nightly answer the world’s shambolic beauty;
Let’s kiss before the kitchen’s petal wilts 
	And falls. 

   Pascal’s Walk
~ by me, Patrick Gillespie Jan 25th 2023

This poem was begun about ten years ago, and was written through to the third stanza. Like Pascal, I never knew what to write after “no boundary to breadth or diminution“. After my second novel was done, I decided to finish it. The final stanza beginning “There still will be the plumb” offers, to me, some of the most beautiful blank verse I’ve written, not just in the sense of language and imagery, but the balance it strikes between sentence and blank verse structure. I didn’t just want the lines to keep the meter but the line breaks themselves to make sense. There’s also internal rhyme, which I’ve been increasingly enjoying. The opening stanzas take some liberties with blank verse, and that’s deliberate.  There are more short lines, anapests, epic caesuras, headless and broken-backed lines. For years I did what most poets do when writing structured verse. I wanted to prove that I could follow the rules. Now I’m experimenting with it and putting my own stamp on it. The poem is inspired by a passage from Thoughts, by Blaise Pascal. The translation comes from the book of the cosmos: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking; and in this book the passage is entitled “The Eternal Silence of These Infinite Spaces”. The opening stanzas follow, somewhat closely, Pascal’s own observations and rhetoric. The final stanza isn’t meant to offer a solution to Pascal’s existential despair (that might be too strong a word) but does answer him to a degree.