For I am before the beginning of things,
and what remains when all things are forgotten.
There is no name for what I am, or any word.
All the right words revolve around me like moons.
I am like the light the moon reflects, but I am not
the moon, or any star, or the inevitable result
of prophesied celestial combinations.
I am the hunger of a perching hawk eyeing the nest
of newborn sparrows, their poignant cry will go unheard.
I am the thirst of the drunkard whose lips are sealed,
the phantom pain in the legs of a double amputee.
I am alone in myself, like the pure and solitary thought
of an execution squad when the captain shouts “Fire!”
I am in no special place, nor do I move from there.
I make movement possible, I make falling in love
possible, I make the slaughter of innocents possible,
and the white flash of the fusion bomb directly overhead.
I make mistakes possible, but soon they become religion,
and politics, and cruel prisons that keep multiplying.
I am what lurks in the dark that stirs the primal fear,
though I am before the dark, before fear, before the space
in which the stars appear to punctuate the darkness,
to make all life possible, love possible, and death.
I am what persists after death, that nameless ecstasy,
that noble rot, that impossible thought, unimaginable.
For I am walking towards you now, even as you look
out towards the horizon and wonder if you will ever be
loved in the way I am loving you in this timeless moment,
the moment of your recurring death, the death of everything.
For I am walking this liquid land that once was an endless sea.
For I am before that sea, before the small delicate creatures
who later became famous for building the sailing ships,
for coming to the New Land, for planting the first tree,
for chopping it down without a twinge of remorse,
for saving pennies that add up to dollars, for spending
it all on frivolities — steel rockets that fly without pilots,
that drop fire on wedding parties, that never return home.
I am home to the sky. It collapses at the end of day in me.
I bring on the night with its dark delights, its soft looming
despair — I wrote that book, the three blind poets stand up
to recite my chapters, the lounge singers my rhyming verse.
They imagine they can somehow fathom me, I am their sorrow
when they realize that they never will. I am their comfort,
I am their wine, I am the pillow they wearily fall upon
when they have had a little bit too much of me.
In their ambivalent dreams they are searching, but for what
they know not (how could they), though when they are still,
when there is nothing but silence, I will be the first sound.
This will make them enormously happy, they will try to say
a word, a great word that is more than any language, more
than the true symbol on the Egyptian tomb, more than
any amazing grace, more than the beguiling honey
on a serpent’s tongue, more than the lover’s offered lips,
the shadow darting just out of sight, the way a certain flower
only opens up at night.
Listen: I am that opening, and I am the air in which it opens,
and I am its haunting fragrance. O Beloved, if I were to be
anything, I will be that prayer.