The Treasure

Mountains, a moment’s earth-waves rising and hollowing; the earth too’s an ephemerid; the stars—
Short-lived as grass the stars quicken in the nebula and dry in their summer, they spiral
Blind up space, scattered black seeds of a future; nothing lives long, the whole sky’s
Recurrences tick the seconds of the hours of the ages of the gulf before birth, and the gulf
After death is like dated: to labor eighty years in a notch of eternity is nothing too tiresome,
Enormous repose after, enormous repose before, the flash of activity.
Surely you never have dreamed the incredible depths were prologue and epilogue merely
To the surface play in the sun, the instant of life, what is called life? I fancy
That silence is the thing, this noise a found word for it; interjection, a jump of the breath at that silence;
Stars burn, grass grows, men breathe: as a man finding treasure says ‘Ah!’ but the treasure’s the essence;
Before the man spoke it was there, and after he has spoken he gathers it, inexhaustible treasure.


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The Treasure” first appeared in Jeffers’s Roan Stallion, Tamar, and Other Poems (Boni and Liveright, 1925). In “Jeffers and Merwin: The World beyond Words,” Neal Bowers writes that “[i]n this remarkable poem, Jeffers transforms the vertiginous possibilities of the void into a vision of fulfillment. The gulf before life and the gulf after [. . .] make the momentary flicker of the thing we call life [. . .] merely a jump of the breath. The treasure is in the enormous repose of nothingness, not in the inadequate exclamations at having found it.”