I think I prefer bottomless chaos,
where there is no plan, hidden or otherwise,
where for ten billion years a universe lay
swollen, unliving, without a soul,
and endlessly creative,
molecules in every possible place
forming, folding, touching, collapsing,
until, in a moment, the threshold was crossed.
And I sensed the weight of those
who lost their footing in the storm
that makes trial pieces of us all.
And everyone I saw
at the apex of a pyramid,
teetering, fragile, the slightest slip
and they might never have made it anyway.
Even a comma.
Fragile, transitory, precarious,
yet how could you miss at every turn
the touch of life's own kiss?
upcurving ash tips trawling every breeze,
of nerve tissue in the flight of a bird.
Or from the squeeze-box of blue on a crust
to the samba band of dog rooting in a bin
the same riotous tune drenching every available place.
And at any point it could have been different,
multiple branches and fibres fingering
every particle of the body of the possible.
And every false start, every unexplored strand
winked and returned to emptiness.
Gone, only the illusion left that every line
in the sketches still on show was deliberate.
But, whatever way I put it,
I suppose I saw each living thing
as a collection of collections
of tiny dead spheres
restlessly combining and dissociating.
And even if iron atoms aren't dead,
nor made or iron,
or even if each one is a ferment of paradoxes
without which my heart would not beat,
how can I avoid slipping through a lattice
that offers no foothold for a human self?
Am I here at all?
At the garden exhibition,
dragons' necks swooping and curving,
boas of white bells, crystalline repetition,
disappeared and were replaced
by a landscape of little magnets
lining up with the nearest field,
domains then collapsing under thermal assault,
summing over time to nothing.
Is life alive?
its roots reaching into submicroscopic worlds
where entities exist simultaneously
in arrays of mutually excluding states,
matter itself its breath
attenuated to near, but never, zero.
if a wave of waves can decide on its own shape.
Are my thoughts my own?
Neither the world nor its representative replies.
Simple, complex, directed, chaotic?
Whatever passes for pattern can be accommodated
as part of a larger random sequence
or result of any of an arbitrary set of laws.
and/or take the consequences.
I used to think nature shrank from our touch,
enveloping us in a cocoon of ideas,
every love narcissism,
and hatred a war with oneself.
I don't know what I will think tomorrow.
Even a comma.
And if we are poised on the edge of a scalpel
so is the universe.
The smallest change in Newton's gravitational constant
and stars could not form;
and should the charge mass ratio of the electron
or Planck's constant waver neither atoms nor us.
As if, too, preceding, surrounding this universe
are, were, will be shoals of others,
outside any line or progress,
the mutilated, empty, capable only of spasms,
side by side with the classically profiled,
tone-deaf unreason hammering on every key.
When I heard the expression
"We're all in the same boat"
I took it to mean that we're all in the same kind of boat,
a flotilla of indistinguishable, isolated tubs.
It never occurred to me that it could mean one great craft,
with all the nautical camaraderie which that suggests.
We could be alone,
this universe a die
with everything staked on one toss,
its scale alone ensuring that one planet, one,
whose loss would be no more matter
than an atom falling from your body,
would be a grace note in the immense silence.
My daughter is making faces at me through the window
because I wouldn't buy her chocolate,
she standing between her reflection and her shadow.
And I see a vast double pyramid
expanding into past and future
meeting where the spirals dance
and the mad and sturdy music registers again.