”non in tempore sed cum tempore Deus creavit ordinem mundi.”
The light years
arriving after untold time,
or driving away from us,
the distances lost in it. . . .
You lie here at night,
slowing the gazing
down to waves or packets.
It’s all the same imperceptible time
where you can’t see your way
you are somewhere else
say, to 1968, The Chamber Brothers
you were oblivious to,
Time has come today: Pleiku,
the Pueblo, Tet Offensive, My Lai,
Russian tanks in Prague,
Apollo 8 orbiting the moon. . . .
Yet no appreciable change
in the air around you—
the cerebral storeroom,
the congealed unlikely jelly where
and pieces coalesce
for the time being. . . .
B mesons oscillate trillions of times
a second before they decay
into 1% more
there is a little something
instead of nothing.
Freight train time, the red shift
and whistle of every bright thing
from us toward the finite weight of everything
or the timeless weight
of the infinite—
not that long
to make up your mind. . . .
For instance, the grey weight of my cat
as we breathe together,
the string, the inevitable
length and portion of time neither of us see
though I have more
access to the timeless abstractions than she. . . .
Einstein timing-out despite his atomic appreciation of the variables—
comet trails of chalk across blackboards,
aurora of his hair—late emblems, ephemera
of hours spent revealing
a theory about space,
and the attendant matter
of time as well.
My cardiologist slipping the threads through to
to keep time a while longer.
school bell later each day
at the end of science class time—
at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school,
in the outer precincts
of a flung arm of an average galaxy
spinning clock-wise somewhere—
the grammar and gravel of it then,
the seemingly unending duration
of it—precious monotony now. . . .
Fossil fuel-buried-time that moves
around the planet
to our ends.
Likewise, ice ages, the unlocking
everything running out and
the fire next time. . . .
Everything takes time.
Part and parcel,
thought particles stalling
like Zeno’s arrow,
motionless in theory,
in flight. . . . Yet the air
of the Himalayas
continuing to rise, drifting off
to the dark edge
where there is no longer
any of it. . . . where time dissolves
The source of it un-sourced,
bright un-mined ore of it,
the un-enriched absence
of atomic structure in 96% of whatever it is
that is un-shining out there,
all that’s beyond parsing in the dark.
What then about the instants, the pools
where we set forth,
the open locks and flood gates,
the unmetaphysical eons where
salt encrypted our blood,
where every paper boat
and soul set forth
with the invisible
ink of time
imprinted on each cell?
What we have then
is the brief
bread crumb equivalent of time
across the cosmic expanse,
and available now,
the whisper and hum of it,
chorusing in the rocks—
the gravity and attenuated driving
finally un-endurable force of it.
Just our glint of time
in time, time. . . .
“Recent research has indicated the possibility
of the gravitational pull of other universes on ours.” Wikipedia
Einstein didn’t live long enough
to work out the Theory of Everything,
the exact mileage to the immense . . .
but if parallel universes are the case,
he’s out there in the stars still
putting the pieces together
even though Max Planck’s study
of radiation suggested divergent laws
operating beneath the floorboards
of gravity and light. . . .
they’ve turned up cosmic bruises—
4 circular patterns in the microwave
that our universe has crashed
into others. . . . One soap bubble
rubs against another and
you have a foam of universes,
a mathematical crash and run-out
to the other side of the end of anything
you now have on hand . . . almost
endless permutations until you arrive
at a duplicate of our own
“Goldilock’s zone” habitable planet!?
More or less.
It could vary by a micron
or two—the tiniest sub-atomic backfire
or jitter of an electron or quark
and scads of different outcomes,
though cosmic strings vibrate
essentially as Parmenides set it down
in his poem about the music of the spheres,
leaving out the north star as the still point
of the turning earth of course. . . .
Elvis is still doing TV Spectaculars
from Hawaii; Al Gore was re-elected,
Rick got on that plane with Ilsa,
everyone in the middle east is sharing
pita bread and baba ganoush with his neighbor,
and somewhere on a stage Burns & Allen
are taking a bow: Say Goodnight Gracie!
There’s an even chance that communism
did not collapse, and instead of making reservations
at that French/Bulgarian fusion bistro,
you’re eyeing the two potatoes and shriveled bit
of beet root left in the shop—some guy selling
lamp shades out the back. . . .
Russian cosmonaut who flew six space missions,
could well head transportation for the EU.
We’re here on condition that everything occurs
within the parenthesis of time,
within the end-stopped tributaries
to a sea, a great blind quantum scramble
where we arrive too late to the table
to translate the oscillating patterns and
packets of light.
With every veneration
of my breath my cells are imminently obliged
to oblivion. You choose one god
or another, but religion is a trial,
an excuse to feel good about the fact
that you might be dead soon,
that, before you know it,
all your atoms will be headed
somewhere without you.
After a Winter Storm: Grand Unified Field Theory
Out here, on the point, I think
I see as much as I’m ever going to . . .
spindrift splashed in air,
time and space dissolving
down storm tracks
to the east. . . .
The rummage of clouds
sloughing stale gusts,
the fogs of industry,
and our sky’s still stuffed
from the Greeks—
Leucippus and Democritus
that it’s only atoms so far
as we’re concerned,
along with the four
split forces that account for us,
for every molecule
we turn up.
Kelp, clam shells, drift wood
from the south seas . . .
bits and pieces,
nothing you can do
about the deep
clock of the universe
slip-streamed on starlight,
but never slowing down—
every shining thing redshifted,
past our ears
as we place a provisional penny
on this collection plate
of dust. . . .
Add every zero you can,
we still end up
with just the fine powder
of the past in our hands. . . .
how the ionosphere developed
into a backboard
for radio waves?
Programs your father punched in
on the chrome buttons
in that Pontiac 60 years ago
bounced around and are still heading out—
Gunsmoke, The Whistler, Mr. & Mrs. North—
the cosmic street lamps,
the only interruption a voice instructing
listeners to Call for Philip Morris. . . .
A sky’s wind-ripped edge is all
the evidence of our breath,
returning to what exactly—
solar dust on the sea?
And the sea is dull
as that zinc counter
in the neighborhood bar,
one thing I could count on besides
a Fernet Branca,
those dark wings spreading inside me despite
the bitter cold . . .
a place for apostates,
to gather for a smoke, a glass
of groundless speculation.
a good salt air slap in the face says,
even gravity’s ignored
by the sleepwalking clouds.
I can still hear the volley and thunder
from the back room,
someone breaking 9-ball . . .
fat chance the 1
and 2 sink in opposite corners,
the 3 and 4 in the sides at the same time. . . .
I’m wondering where, amid all the quantum mechanics,
a soul turns up
in a garage full of theoretical parts—
lost among more dust drifting
across pages of Natural Philosophy
from the Middle Ages where
no metaphysical exceptions were made,
where they hadn’t the slightest
intimation of supergravity
or the eleven dimensions
elegantly resolve the old equation.
Electromagnetic, weak or strong
the idea is that they can one day seamlessly be thrown
like evening light gathering itself across the sea. . . .
everything we can put our finger on
one charmed quark or left-handed neutrino
after another. . . .
Centuries of star gazing
and nothing’s clear
as we still wonder
if we’ve come this far
only to come this far?
Christopher Buckley’s newest book of poem, Chaos Theory, is due from MadHat Press in January 2018. STAR JOURNAL: SELECTED POEMS was published by the Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, fall 2016. His 20th book of poetry, Back Room at the Philosophers’ Club won the 2015 Lascaux Prize in Poetry from the Lascaux Review. Among several critical collections and anthologies of contemporary poetry, he has edited: Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California, 2008, and ONE FOR THE MONEY: THE SENTENCE AS A POETIC FORM, from Lynx House Press, 2012, both with Gary Young. He has also edited On the Poetry of Philip Levine: Stranger to Nothing, Univ. of Michigan Press 1991, and Messenger to the Stars: a Luis Omar Salinas New Selected Poems & Reader for Tebot Bach’s Ash Tree Poetry Series.