Down the dark way, the dark way down.
Everything dark now, as he has come to see:
that the way was always dark, the journey dark,
the mind dark, the answers like the questions
dark, each day dark, the glaucous pearl white eyes,
even when the sun spread across the greengold grass,
glistening the bright skin of the copper beeches.
Dark, dark, and dark. Because it is the nature
of the restless mind which knows too well
that nothing is ever really known, no matter
how much one tells oneself it is. The books,
the words: all so much straw, even when
they seemed to blaze with meaning. One
more piece, he used to think, one more shard
to complete the puzzle, even as it all
slipped down the drain, the vortex
of the drain, dark, dark and dark. And it was night,
John says, the light departed, the face distorted
in the brazier’s glow. I know him not. Yes,
I knew him once, and the sunlight sang. But that
was then, you have to understand. That was then,
before the answers like the very questions ceased
to call out to each other. Yes, that was then, when I built
my castle by the sea in the bright mid-morning sun,
and thought that what I’d made was good, before
the indifferent tide came rolling in again, dissolving
everything. Dark, dark, oh dark. And nothing for it
but to let the wind rebuild it, bit by bit, and lift it as it will.
This poem was selected for The Best American Poetry 2016.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.