Everything is nothing, but afterwards. I rise and the moon disturbs the darkness,
revealing symbols, a few stolen words
on the bureau. Tomorrow I’ll express
my gratitude by disappearing be-
fore I’m found, which is to say goodbye before hello, a paradigm for the
prepossessed. Compton tells us to imply
what’s missing, like Van Gogh or Bill Monroe,
but why listen to the dead before they’ve
stopped speaking? Unfortunately we throw
out the bad with the good, only to save
the worst. I return to bed, and the floor
spins. Nothing is everything, but before.
* * *
This first appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine in December 2014, and is also included in my chapbook,If Your Matter Could Reform. The line “Everything is nothing, but afterwards” comes from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin. Porchia wrote one book in his lifetime, but what a book it was! Often described as a collection of aphorisms, Voices is so much more – each time I open the book, I find new meaning in old lines.
Within the unknown or could-have-been,
this stance requires certainty, the ability
to stand upright, rooted, implacable,
relentless in the isand the noin time.
I dream of faith, despite knowing its
secrets. Atoms swarm, seed heads explode.
Rivers reverse, the galaxy rots, and at the
center, we fold our arms across our chests
and deny or accept at whim, leaving behind
no footprints, only lost words, some dust.
“Self-Portrait as Never” was first published in After the Pause in June 2019. Thank you, Michael Prihoda, for accepting this piece.