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In Anselm Kiefer’s Am Anfang
A ladder rises like a DNA helix
Out of the seething flux, an ocean
Of broken glass, shattered light,
The bonds just barely linking there,
Chiral, as yet un-living, into proto-
Membrane, proto-cell, accreting
In the sugary stew of their forming,
The nucleotides surging tidal
As they begin to spiral upward
Into sediment mats of microbes
Spreading darkly other-ward
From deep-sea vent and scree,
The mechanism assembling,
Emerging by gathering back all
That was crossed before, enzyme
And polymer, the chemical
Adamic clay, so the proteins
Fold in their blind self-knowing
Growing out of their sulfur world,
Self-ordering into the ever new,
Autocatalysis or code: Word
Imprinted in pigment, palette,
The widening span, singular
Dance of many into the artist’s
Lattice-work through clouds,
Chain by miraculous chain
And everything unrepeatable,
Himself hidden, withdrawn
From what’s been drawn, drawn
Out of itself into un-walled horizon,
Now and now and now, light
Lifted into light beyond the frame.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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