The Ethical Problem of Existence
by Richard Jackson
What I thought was an ethical problem
of existence was only just a broken heart.
— Jack Myers
A night with ticks inching across the sky like stars.
The lost moon, or only a spotlight from a store opening.
A mind without the wings it so desperately needs.
Not an elegy. Only meteors we almost think we see.
A heart with its phone lines all tangled. Our place
in the cosmos like a seed buried in an orange. His
Gerry Mulligan, Moonlight in Vermont, the baritone
notes strolling through pastures, bumping into trees.
A lesson you can see on the other side of the waterfall
that you’ll never understand. Not an elegy. Only this
graveyard of unfinished sentences. The scenery of a life
heaped up at the side of the stage. As when a tree falls
inside your head. As when even the atomic clocks can’t
tell. All day, raindrops exploding on the windowsill.
And tonight this broken spider web, a glistening galaxy.
Perhaps the history of clouds: Lenticular, Pyrocumulus,
Noctilucent. Perhaps the history of myth, — Mot, the god
of death arriving in the Neolithic age like a desert.
Or that age when the liver was thought to be the heart.
Blind thoughts. Words asleep in the throat. A voice
over your shoulder calling you back. Blind echoes.
Francis Bacon writing that science will stop misery.
All those pink mushrooms in one spot hiding the giant
mushroom beneath the turf. The bird on that rotting
branch thinking it is a leaf. No elegy. Every elegy
in love with its speaker. No, nothing to learn from
that self absorbed moon. Every breath an experiment.
The street singers forgetting their words that fly
off like swallows circling the chimneys and trees.
The first light falling from the sky, the first darkness
rising from the earth. The train that keeps traveling
on rails that grow impossibly narrow in the distance.
Old wagon roads the forest already claims. The wind
arriving uninvited, it’s needles trying to stitch you
to pure air. Impossible to calculate how many
protons pass through us each day. Colliding particles
to discover what the world was like before it was
the world. Each life a singularity no physicist could know.
No elegy. A poem with a flask in its pocket. A poem
unable to complete itself. A poem that refuses to settle
in one place. The story of the Buddha telling creation to be
patient. A good bird can sleep on the wing. Thus
the star shaped prints the robin leaves in the mud.
Thus the pain of the moon that can’t claw its way back up.
And this, a paper boat set on fire and gliding on
a glowing river leading nowhere. A lesson there, too.