Sitting Outside at the End of Autumn

Three years ago, in the afternoons,
                                            I used to sit back here and try
To answer the simple arithmetic of my life,
But never could figure it—
This object and that object
Never contained the landscape
                                                          nor all of its implications,
This tree and that shrub
Never completely satisfied the sum or quotient
I took from or carried to,
                                               nor do they do so now,
Though I'm back here again, looking to calculate,
Looking to see what adds up.

Everything comes from something,
                                           only something comes from nothing,
Lao Tzu says, more or less.
Eminently sensible, I say,
Rubbing this tiny snail shell between my thumb and two fingers.
Delicate as an earring,
                                          it carries its emptiness like a child
It would be rid of.
I rub it clockwise and counterclockwise, hoping for anything
Resplendent in its vocabulary or disguise—
But one and one make nothing, he adds,
                                                                           endless and everywhere,
The shadow that everything casts.

"Sitting Outside at the End of Autumn" from CHICKAMAUGA by Charles Wright. Copyright © 1995 by Charles Wright. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, LLC. CAUTION: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Staus, and Giroux, LLC.
Source: CHICKAMAUGA (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1995)
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