0 Shortcut to What?

0                        Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
                                    Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”

Out the door every
day along High Street
to Sloane. Only the grave
there still and the grave gates, Egyptian
red soft sandstone. Every
day. Truth not flowing down
from a source; but, an exact
accord that makes the whole
simpler than the parts;
those bodies lost all winter
in the snow. The storm
in the night so great,
so erasing the man

so immemorably standing in it, at sea in it,
and the woman in batiste weeds of white at sea
in it on her widowed watching walk.

Gibbs spoke only once
in a Faculty Meeting, during
protracted, tiring debate on elective courses:
should there be—more English, more Classics? More? Or less.
They were astonished to see him rise, after thirty-two years,
though familiar with the high, pained-sounding voice: a man of snow
assessing. Not to be distracted, or dispersed into longcuts,
not to be turned from the whole entire empty mist
hanging in the cold air, not to miss—or
intrude on the nothing that was

in every emotional way,
Gibbs, hidden at home, creating the loneliness
he needed to assume just one responsibility—for which no thanks,
much complaining of it, some wonder. Lost, in the clouds of snow gathering
in CT over Transactions & Proceedings of the local Academy of Sciences,
the one un-evasion he accepted: shortcutting elegance by uncouth
statement that is efficient in every respect. The reward for
getting past the failings of language? To be found
un-readable. Gibbs rose. He said: Mathematics
is a language. And sat down.

From How the Universe is Made. Copyright © 2019 by Stephanie Strickland. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Ahsahta Press.