One A.M. [excerpt]

You'll show that toad-eater who wrote Night Thoughts 
what's happened in two centuries or so.

You'll make your yard the spirit's doorway 
to metamorphs and comet-lit inventions.

Go ahead, walk the cathedral-volumned night. 
Let Perseids stripe your eyes.


I read the other day
that giant black snowballs from outer space 
created our oceans.

Center me, physics, keep me 
from brooding too long on my fear, 
on the pickup truck that rammed the school bus, 
on the strange sea pastures of the Persian Gulf, 
on love and its string of losses.

Now everything's strings, they say, cosmic strings 
that pull the galaxies toward the Great Attractor
holding all matter together.

Microcosm, meet macrocosm. 
Solace us with your kinship, make 
one little yard an everywhere.

I think of Calvino's 
dark, humorous mind, 
another squirrel in the treetops--
how he made truth and wit 
from troubling loops of knowledge.

And Miroslav Holub, 
who lived alone in this house one spring 
and pondered this yard as I do. 
The appetite for fact
helped him survive, walk around 
and laugh to himself, inside 
this century's bluntest terrors-- 
the one that Hitler made, 
the one that Stalin added.

A string may link me to them here, 
and run
right through the blackened school bus, 
the rubble of Beirut, 
down to the toxic wastes, on up and out 
to the ice ball punching our atmosphere--

Like Theseus in his labyrinth, 
I stand here holding
my little end of string.


I caught and cupped a firefly just now 
like an old miser blowing on his palms 
to keep some warmth in.

I'd like that glow to be
The milky streams of star-mess overhead, 
the rivulets of words below,

nacreous teeth of the speaker in the dark 
words folding into the spiral that runs up

to the coiled shape of galaxies
as the brain whorls match the labyrinthine curves,

echoing stairwell, spinning DNA,
the play with nests and shrinking models,

the sidewise slide, the folding-up of sense, 
the web the spider swings and spins, connecting.


Is this a dream?--I see my grandpa milking, 
I watch my mother watching him.
The cats swarm round, the barn is cold, 
the cows chew steadily and stamp 
in random patterns, defecate 
in flops and splatters, steaming heaps.

I'm the froth of the milk, the silvery pail, 
the piles of hay, the cats 
spiraling round my legs. 
I am the frost-coated lightning rod.

We play with infinity, this is our luck,
measureless measuring, lot lines and boundaries 
always deferred, always potential, 
doing, undoing, doing, undoing, 
we repeat ourselves so infinity
can make love to finity, kiss it, 
dance with it all night.

I taste the water from that old farm's well. 
The milk was warm. The water's hard and sweet.


Repetition's magic. I knew it in my bones. 
Let me repeat my dream for you, 
let me repeat it for myself.

Let me talk on in this starlight, 
these meteor streakings of nonsense, 
this chaos, these fractals and freckles.

Don't take my words away from me yet. 
I'm doing my midnight weeding, 
grasping the thistles close to the root,

I'm losing the dream farm, I'm 
probably failing, repeating 
what others have said-- 

but that farm, like an old brown photograph
suddenly filling the senses-- 
and this night, like a silver gelatin print--

and a string that runs from me to the past:
the view from the farmhouse window 
across the silent fields of snow.

From Night Thoughts and Henry Vaughan by David Young, published by The Ohio State University Press. Copyright © 1994 by David Young. Used by permission. All rights reserved.