Minuscule Things

There’s a crack in this glass so fine we can’t see it,
and in the blue eye of the candleflame’s needle
there’s a dark fleck, a speck of imperfection

that could contain, like a microchip, an epic
treatise on beauty, except it’s in the eye of the beheld.
And at the base of our glass there’s nothing

so big as a tiny puddle, but an ooze, a viscous
patina like liquefied tarnish. It’s like a text
so short it consists only of the author’s signature,

which has to stand, like the future, for what might
have been: a novel, let’s say, thick with ambiguous life.
Its hero forgets his goal as he nears it, so that it’s

like rain evaporating in the very sight of parched
Saharans on the desert floor. There, by chance, he meets
a thirsty and beautiful woman. What a small world!

William Matthews, “Minuscule Things” from Selected Poems and Translations, 1969-1991. Copyright © 1992 by William Matthews. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved, www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.
Source: Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991 (1992)
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