Christopher Buckley

The Shape of Things
August 14, 2012 Buckley Christopher

The Shape of Things


I’ve been reading the science books again

before bed, where I am lost

in the search for the unified field,

where Einstein said the universe is

curved, where the new cosmologists—

a prolific gang of guessers—un-

characteristically say they just aren’t sure . . .

and it’s all spinning about

in my drowsy brain, where I look out

the window to the full October moon

above the tomatoes still swelling

on their vines, and it comes to me

that the universe is round —

and round, too, whatever

the universe floats in, and

what contains that as well,

ad infinitum . . . .


belief is circular, day or night,

standing on its hands, turning

cartwheels across the flimsy

infrastructure of the mind, ripples

to the pond edge, around the globe

of the cerebellum that knits the invisible

in place.  Because the sky has always been,

and the circulations of the air about us,

and the circumlocutions of every politician,

Sadducee, Pharisee, and Holy Roller,

the men just changing coats

and shipping off  over seas to war.


Because whatever we have done

comes back to us, down the causeway

of clouds, the grey circuitry of matter.

Fate as a wheel and the randomness

forever riding there.  And the form

of our cells, the protozoa, sea foam,

the soul, and the principle of uncertainty

glowing like cilia all about our skin.

Equally the cranium, the apple forsaken,

the spun planets and flung stars,

the crowns of the beech trees

in sun, and my cats curled up

in every bit of galactic contentment

they will ever know.

An atom

is an architecture of worship,

a pint-sized quantum dome—a locus,

a curve satisfying all the points

of the chaotic  equation. Because

a photon has a marrow of light,

and a quark and neutrino are infinite

currency, and yet the ineluctable


drift-net of the dark takes it all—

the music of the spheres

sashaying beginning to end,

like Carmen for example,

the flaming rose, the flood-lit

stage, the ellipses of love and

the essential accelerant of our blood

as she throws down her cigarette

and circles the men in theme

and variation, like most everything.

Because of the oblong direction

of hope, the spiraled galaxies, our

elliptical desire a case in point,

hard-wired into the stars . . .

and add in, of  course, the glorious,

quintessential circumference

of the breast.


of the mitochondrial gears,

the distractions of dust

swimming up, of thought likewise

turning to froth, the complete confusion

of our first word with our last,

the apostrophe of breath

that proclaimed us, the little air

we relinquish and absorb.

What fits

the hand cannot be gathered

into your arms, into the empty

hoop wishes finally are—

sand dollars and sunflowers,

gold lichen high in the Sierras,

like fragments of falling stars, the 10%


that are iron or nickel, the afterthoughts

and how the ashes are carried

off . . . .

You can add a zero

to the sum, to the overview,

the intrigues of loss—big bang and

the blue orbs of quasars still bubbling

forth, the unified field gone

to pieces at the get-go,

the blast-furnaces of each recycled

sun spinning in the outer precincts

with our dim expostulations, hoping

to roll it all back into a ball.

Christopher Buckley’s most recent book is One Sky to the Next, winner of the Longleaf Press Book Prize, 2023. He has recently edited: The Long Embrace: Contemporary Poets on the Long Poems of Philip Levine, Lynx House Press, 2020; and NAMING THE LOST: THE FRESNO POETS—Interviews & Essays, Stephen F. Austin State Univ. Press, 2021.