This is the beginning. Almost anything can happen. This is where you find the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land, the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page. Think of an egg, the letter A, a woman ironing on a bare stage as the heavy curtain rises. This is the very beginning. The first-person narrator introduces himself, tells us about his lineage. The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings. Here the climbers are studying a map or pulling on their long woolen socks. This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn. The profile of an animal is being smeared on the wall of a cave, and you have not yet learned to crawl. This is the opening, the gambit, a pawn moving forward an inch. This is your first night with her, your first night without her. This is the first part where the wheels begin to turn, where the elevator begins its ascent, before the doors lurch apart.
This is the middle.
Things have had time to get complicated,
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore.
Cities have sprouted up along the rivers
teeming with people at cross-purposes –
a million schemes, a million wild looks.
Disappointment unsolders his knapsack
here and pitches his ragged tent.
This is the sticky part where the plot congeals,
where the action suddenly reverses
or swerves off in an outrageous direction.
Here the narrator devotes a long paragraph
to why Miriam does not want Edward's child.
Someone hides a letter under a pillow.
Here the aria rises to a pitch,
a song of betrayal, salted with revenge.
And the climbing party is stuck on a ledge
halfway up the mountain.
This is the bridge, the painful modulation.
This is the thick of things.
So much is crowded into the middle –
the guitars of Spain, piles of ripe avocados,
Russian uniforms, noisy parties,
lakeside kisses, arguments heard through a wall
too much to name, too much to think about.
And this is the end,
the car running out of road,
the river losing its name in an ocean,
the long nose of the photographed horse
touching the white electronic line.
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the parade,
the empty wheelchair, and pigeons floating down in the evening.
Here the stage is littered with bodies,
the narrator leads the characters to their cells,
and the climbers are in their graves.
It is me hitting the period
and you closing the book.
It is Sylvia Plath in the kitchen
and St. Clement with an anchor around his neck.
This is the final bit
thinning away to nothing.
This is the end, according to Aristotle,
what we have all been waiting for,
what everything comes down to,
the destination we cannot help imagining,
a streak of light in the sky,
a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.
Tonight I get to be in the same room as the man that wrote this poem. The last time that happened I was a senior in college in a poetry class. He walked in and stole the room with his smile, laugher, and overall presence of being. When he read his poems, tears flooded my eyes...not knowing that someone so real and familiar could write words that connected so deeply with myself.
Tonight will be different. My scarf and jeans will be replaced with a ball gown and heels. But I hope I get to cry the same way, because even though everything in my life has changed...I really don't feel all that different.