I think about the scanty Puritan heavens
Dotted with lost and solitary lights
That Emerson must have seen so many times
From the snowdrifts and austerity of Concord.
Here where I am, there are too many stars.
There are too many men. The innumerable
Generations of insects and of birds,
Of the star-studded jaguar and the serpent,
Of branches that entwine and intertwine,
Of coffee and of foliage and of sand
Weigh heavy on the mornings, lavishing
Their intricate and pointless labyrinth.
Possibly every ant we step upon
Is precious in the sight of God because
He shall require it for the execution
Of the sure laws that rule His curious world.
If it were not so, the entire cosmos
Would be an error and a crushing chaos.
The reflecting surfaces of ebony and water,
The distorting mirrors that appear in dreams,
The lichens, fish, white coral, and the files
Of turtles crawling endlessly through time,
The winking fireflies of a lonely evening,
The dynasties of araucarias,
The dark and vivid letters of a volume
That night does not erase, all, without doubt,
Are no less puzzling and particular
Than I, who jumble them. I would not dare
To judge Caligula, or leprosy.

San Pablo, 1970

This Issue

June 24, 1993