Before the First Word, the Universe Sang
Just the landscape of numberless
boundaries and human-carved rocks—
striking, suggestive as steel-tempered sentences. Absurdities
ready-to-burst, tethered like the stars by Nature’s own chains,
the forge of convention. Transparent and well-nigh invisible,
as if loose over this world and the next, yet enclosed by bellglass.
Its bounds live, move, and brandish verbal spears
made of the heaviest, most opaque stuff in the universe—
denser than hammered steel, yet indefinite. What they shall be:
nothing, hope, all possibilities, longing of heaven and eternities.
Weighed, measured, branded and bounded by order,
like bricks. Machinery. Books lack faith in the Scriptures of Nature.
The joint work of evil and good must dwell in contact with beauty,
the vulgar heresy, familiarity with contempt. Intervals to be measured
instead of inhaling every moment in order
to act, to say anything with the purest words of deceit.
Reason was born and bred and dwells in the barren rock,
the bleak winds, the solitude of seas—
they have language, but declare nothing.
Erasure poem. Source Text: January 10th, 1873 letter to J. B. McChesney http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/life/life_and_letters/chapter_10.aspx