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 Design. 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.