All the While
                             The bare branches pointing to the place
                             Where there’s time for everything

The sky’s a blank sheet
but for the footnotes
of cloud at the bottom,
unreadable as ever ….
I lived back there
in a mid-century gray—
from our street to the beach,
from the tide-pools and fog-
ghosted shore, to the roar
and riptide of surf
where I knew no better
than to be content.
when I take an early drink,
the past rolls in like fog …
there are the avocado trees
where I climbed into the sky,
and a bit further off
my mother and I riding
the train to Louisville
each summer, where her parents
were still alive … history,
just one thing after another—
how little time we had for it.

We were only kids
when the crows started
clacking out our epitaphs
from the pines, and in this
they resembled the nuns
at school, who recanted nothing
they’d threatened us with
the day before as they forecast
our demise to darkness and/
or fire—to dust, sulfur,
burning salt.
                       Going nowhere
for so long, I was, nonetheless,
happy to be doing so ….
Afternoons, I stood on the cliff
conducting the updrafts,
soundless stanzas of wind
I never translated
to any purpose beyond
the undertow of October.
How many stars died
while I looked out the window
working out the long division
of the blue, watching the acacias
blossom and wondering about
my return to some glittering
cosmic bits?
                       For the time being,
I’m content beside jasmine
and cape honeysuckle, recalling
the scented air of Babylon rising
from the hanging gardens
in our Bible History books …
as, all the while, we were moving
steadily toward extinction
as coherently as the six blind men
encountering an elephant
for the first time.
                              In the next
instant, I’ll take in a stream of atoms
breathed out by Democritus,
who invented them, or from
the last slave hauling a stone
up a ramp on the pyramid at Giza,
or even from Po Chu-i
who survived nine emperors,
holding his breath, hoping
to outlast exile, hoping after
his next cup of wine to be
recalled to the world ….

Prophets, mystics,
research scientists,
who’s resolved the formula
for the infinite
we look out to each night?
I have as little now as ever
insofar as a vision of hope obtains.
Yet, I’m still tossing ideas
into the air, from one hand
to the other, my only recourse
a hollyhock or house finch,
the evening wreckage of clouds
suggesting something beyond empty
branches, something that might
shift the gray cells and keep
my consciousness floating
with the dust hovering above
paths in the park.
                              And for nothing
more substantial than the sound
and easygoing grace of it,
I say Aurora Borealis
as I did all those years ago
in General Science, though
even the outermost edges
are invisible from here,
the swirled signatures
of electromagnetic light
that might hint at
what our one precinct
in the mostly empty dark
will come to.
                        It’s hard to see
the purpose of the world,
or the need … there’s no
breadcrumb trail across
the night, no streaks
of shooting stars leading to
anything—not the least
of which might be a murmur
from the nearest spheres,
a blank passage in the oldest scrolls …
no cosmic cantata as Pythagoras had it
rings true. We have only the trees
still making way for wind, the dry
leaves of eucalyptus like swarms
of dead souls let go again—little change,
one year, one sky to the next ….





Christopher Buckley’s recent books include The Consolations of Science & Philosophy (Lynx House Press, 2022) and One Sky to the Next, winner of the Long Leaf Press contest (due in early 2023). He recently edited The Long Embrace: Contemporary Poets on the Long Poems of Philip Levine (Lynx House, 2020) and Naming the Lost: The Fresno Poets—Interviews & Essays (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2021).

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