Before the First Word, the Universe Sang

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

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