What Can Turn Us From This Deserted Future
Crazed for the simple life, essayists try,
as monks and gardeners do
without a marketing force, to new-
and-improve varieties of satiety
with more of less, and to refurbish brands
of withoutness promising to turn one
into the other. Restraint—
a soup whose umami only the cook
can taste because she knows
where to look, looks like
“settled households and communities”
devoted to tasks at and by hand or
“reflection subordinated to necessary action” —
nevertheless is filling, slightly addictive.
Doors stick as doors and windows
windows, if you get my meaning.
This makes trouble for the new physics,
which is dull to irony, not at all
friable as the soil of a March-tilled plot
or a soul thawed open by obedience.
That which is of or like iron—
substances malleable only to what
made it—studies resisting.
Unlike, say, a tree that is itself and feels
constrained and is even pleased
to follow what came before,
these new sciences struggle to resist
late-season temptations toward miracles.
Maybe I’m looking too hard
for cause to rejoice, but is that wrong?
It takes so long to get everyone’s
house built, that once the time
preserved for pleasure opens it is
too late to change a mind
habituated to seeing every parcel
of open ground as a homestead,
that knows just how to place
the house in relation to the barn
in relation to the fields.
It’s no worse than the essayist,
who after book after book his best
advice remains to take up
the old cross of simplicity, figure it out.
Whatever that may come to mean
in the course of what one cultivates.
As it says in Shakespeare:
“tis not for gravity to play at cherry-pit with Satan.”
But it was for kids, marble-sharks
and wannabes who around circles drawn
in dirt knuckled down to shoot.
Keepsies was the rule:
play without a worldly care
for what, if anything, would ever grow there.