Gauzed shine on the infinite,
the moondog blooms like a distant searchlight
left of the moon, almost unmoving to the naked eye,
as if tracking a slow-drifting object,
like one of the balloons wafting
into North Korea, balloons with winter socks tied to them,
or one of Chagall’s ethereal blue bodies above a nameless Russian town.
Some mirage of light & cloud & ice,
Jupiter-toed & Aries-tailed,
it’s only a matter of hours between the length of its life
& mine, right now a confluence
of memory & cold & kerosene spill of lamplight on the deck.
Fool am I, who is not willing to lose
that which I cannot keep
for that which I cannot lose, someone once said.
There are fasts that have lasted
the rest of a life
that began by refusing a piece of bread.
Crumb by crumb the self is whittled down,
until you realize
your life might not be your own:
the noughting of oneself, the Cloud of Unknowing
calls it, & the all-ing of God,
who kindled our desire
& fashioned it into a leash of longing.
Stray dog, I’m afraid I’ll feel the leash slacken.
Although I hope I’m more than what I’ve forgotten,
I’m more than I remember,
my hope in the end, & after the end, stray dog—
for whom the resurrection is the full moon rising—
is resurrection, though the means are a mystery,
the time beyond me—
& so where the ladders end might be less important than where they start.
And so I edge toward the unknowing,
& away from the fear that has me afraid to give too much away,
afraid I’ll be too afraid
to give it all away. Our dissolutions seem a courtesy
of the animal grace we share: because of this end,
we have little to offer besides ourselves, besides praise
& nothing to keep: because of this lack we seek,
our willingness to let go of the world. Even the saints’ relics,
finger bone or blood-mark,
diminish, in the same way you diminish
then dissolve into a million cubist faces
in the frost on our windows,
as you dissolve on whitecaps & sleeping horses
(not even hunger is mine, not even fear or light).
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.