What if anything, any action, is allowed?
What if no higher power or consciousness
oversees every atom of everyone in every crowd?
What if there is only now and here and this?
What if, for every question, the answer
is only what you agree upon with your friends,
no law or book or precedent to which to refer.
What if there are no beginnings or ends.
What if lives aren't stories, just events
in succession, no causes or effects?
What if there are no destinies, nothing meant
by anything, no truths to accept or reject?
What if we live on a rock afloat in space,
and at the center of it all is your face?
TO THE OLD POET I FEAR I’LL BECOME
To the old poet whose regretful poems hardly anyone reads
I would say, I like your poems, I write mine like them,
but your time is done. You trampled upon the seeds
of the next poets, but they grew anyway—their narrow stem
is now the trunk of a mighty tree that meets the sky
without fear, especially of you, to whom no one listens.
But I listen. I admire the past, though I understand why
no one reads you anymore: you thought only your friends
and the great dead had anything to say, that the young
were born too late to attain true and worthy wisdom,
that they would always be younger than you. And it stung,
didn't it, when you read their poems and realized they’d come
up to your height, your age, how much of what only you knew
they know now—everyone learns, though not from you.
Others’ success causes you actual, palpable pain.
As you read online how some younger, handsomer poet
got published in that damn magazine that once again
rejected you, or his book got reviewed, though it
isn't as deep and rigorous as yours—or maybe it is;
you won't read it, because each of its words stings
your ego like a poison bee. A better heart could bless his
fortune, say and believe he deserves good things,
grants, prizes, dozens of likes on each Facebook post,
but your heart hasn't time for such generosity.
Your heart’s bent on protecting you from getting lost
in the tumult of time. And it's surprised not to be
a child’s anymore, center of the universe. You must
allow the old thing the time it needs to adjust.
Spider climbing up your thread,
sole nighttime witness to my head,
—though I know that you can't hear or see
any of the thoughts that occur to me,
and that even if you could know my mind,
human consciousness is ill-defined
to you—you make webs, eat flies,
view the world through your eight eyes.
But please tell no one I was here tonight,
stewing in heavy air and dim moonlight.
Don't say you saw me by myself when
my wife’s downstairs wondering again
why I'm out here instead of with her.
I don't know. I suppose this is easier.