Another Farewell to Truth
Politics can no longer be thought of in terms of truth.
The late sun bleeds its own light across the surface of the water. A yellow butterfly sips a little life from the edge. Someone has left an out of date history book on the bank. Beyond these hills the winds are trying to decide who controls the dust they kick up out of the ruins they have made. The tiny lizard with its tail chewed off has a question we’ll never hear. A cloud of gnats keeps shifting direction over the surface. Each evening I understand less of why we are here. It is as if our shadows slipped downstream without us.
Where is it one first heard of the truth? The the.
—Wallace Stevens,’The Man on the Dump”
A wet leaf struggles across the pavement as if it were a mouse or a mole guided by a wind made visible by the mist. It passes a man having lunch from a dumpster behind the supermarket. The skeletal trees seem to frown on this wind that tugs at the man’s coat. There’s something it is trying to tell him. He stuffs a wrapper in his pocket for later. If he had words for it, he would answer the wind. The day already feels used. The rain keeps prodding whatever it will. Is there anything more? Did you think there was a moral here, or that the wind would have something to say to us?
Nothing at All
It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.
—Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness
You think you have been here before, and time starts to wobble on its axis. The path you are on is not the path you are on. The robin can’t find its nest. There are sounds with no source, roots that lose their way and break the surface. There, in the middle of the woods, is a stone wall that stretches fifty feet but marks nothing, belongs to nothing, stands for nothing. In the distance a shaft of light falls on nothing in particular. There is nothing to say, nothing to do, nowhere to go. Your own watch stutters its alarm.
How, in physics, two opposite things can be true at once
Thinking he is alone in the park he thinks of the mind as a See-Saw where the two children rock back and forth. On the one side he is still alone in the park, on the other side he rises above even himself. In that version he sits alone with the buzzard in a dying maple This is not the world he wanted to escape into The day wears itself out like a used toy. The wind twists through the trees. One thought follows another with relentless regularity. He wants to erase himself into another future. This is when he calls upon us, because it is we who have been thinking this. The mind is a clone of itself.
Fog Rises from the Leaves
Like a blossom, like an empty mouth / I go.
Through the barren tree limbs and the fog that lingers like a half remembered thought, the moon is a bright smudge that hides whatever stars were around it. But nothing is ever where or when we see it. I remember the flashlight fingering their way through ground fog as we searched for Ludwig. Lipica. When was that? Leaves are scattered on the ground like unused words. Gravitational waves bend the light, and time. Maybe that is why the child asked today, when we lose time can we find it later? Tonight it is almost two years. Galaxies continue to flow in currents and swirl in eddies like pools of water the child was playing in. There’s a face in every word we remember. That’s why your own words echo here tonight. Megla se dviga iz listja. Fog rises from the leaves. Utrujen sem biti sam. I am tired of being alone. Every word has a future tense the way Zechariah’s horses and trees stood for future worlds he couldn’t see. Today we are still trying to map the cosmos though its pages are smeared with theories. And who are we but metaphors for what we want to be?
You burn in one place, then you burn in another.
—Gerald Stern, “The World We Should Have Stayed In”
Twilight spies on us from the tops of the pines. A few unidentified sounds break in from the growing darkness. Someone says we are not safe here. Someone says the moment has already been stolen. Vapor trails crisscross like broken branches. They have nothing to do with the news of the huge tube shaped asteroid heading our way. Our own wishes limp for cover. On their way to us the stories die as they always do here. In a little while the yellow crime scene tape will wrap their words as evidence for what they did not say in time.
The Map of Grief
Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists.
—Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943
There’s a looming quiet as even the insects pause while we pass. Clouds try to reinvent themselves but remain as clouds. The space around us opens like a flower until we seem to walk in a world beyond this ne. In everything seen there is something unseen. The dried mud patches written over by horses form little dunes. Around us the tree fall has left the air splintered. You can almost smell time in the dirt. It has been over a year now. Then suddenly a white moth crosses the patch, shattering the silence, waving its message like a signal flag in a language only the dead can read. Such is the relief map of grief.
I want to possess the atoms of time
—Clarice Lispector, Agua Viva
As the earth turns away from the sun, a few cumulous clouds glow gold at the edges promising what they can’t deliver. Another darkness sifts down upon us. The last chimney swifts take their secrets back to their own darkness. There are still a few signs to decipher. The crickets adjust our watches by the weather. The spider maps our universe further than we can see. The moth at the lamp reads our future in the directions the flame jabs. On the new mown field two rabbits face off, then jump over each in some codded way until they scamper away into the underbrush. Do you think I meant these as metaphors for what we don’t know? No, I am sitting here with grief, with this set of keys left by a dead man that were never intended to open any doors.
MEDITATIONS IN TROUBLED TIMES is from Dispatches which will be published by Wet Cement Press in 2022.
Richard Jackson is the author of 15 books of poetry including Where The Wind Comes From and Broken Horizons, and 12 books of essays, interviews, translations and anthologies. He was awarded the Order of Freedom Medal for literary and humanitarian work during the Balkan wars by the President of Slovenia during his work with the Slovene-based Peace and Sarajevo Committees of PEN International. He has received Guggenheim, Fulbright, NEA, NEH, and two Witter-Bynner fellowships, a Prairie Schooner Reader's Choice Award, and the Crazyhorse prize, and he is the winner of five Pushcart Prizes and has appeared in Best American Poems as well as many other anthologies.