Awake in the middle of the night, the river
cracked with language, the ice of it
a heave of squares and oblongs.
Only the waterfall, its cold spray
frosting nearby juts of stone with lace,
continued to tumble as if it would
never cease to move and be. Once it was,
we lay down together, two lakes
touching. “I want to do to you
what spring does to the lilac,” I whispered.
Not an idle fancy, or vain—I’m drawn
to what any one moment might make
of its impermanence. That’s all we have.
We know the body dies. We say the spirit
doesn’t—but…I don’t know.
In five billion years the sun will take out
the earth and all life, if there’s still
life left. Billions more, and the expanding
universe will reach its limit and recede,
raveling back into the nothing
from which nothing comes.
“It will be like we were never here,”
you’ve said. Love, joy, the music
our bodies made—once we’ve
vanished, what happens to these,
these streaks of light we’ve released
from within us to blow about like pollen
among the blossoming stars? What happens to
spirit when the material universe
of star birth and sun’s warmth is no more?
How long the silence in which it lies
dormant? How long the long winter of no
river, no meander, no waterfall rainbow
or ocean splendor—before the random
spark ignites and out of what seems impossible
love, once again, comes love?
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.