The Philosophy Professor Facing Retirement
Don't beg.
—Carlos Drummond de Andrade
The sky leaning on your shoulders, scuffed as it was
              left—and you're still free to breathe,
                            but stand here as long as you can,

there is no breath of God, only the misplaced pages
               of the wind with no further elaboration
                             of the beginning or the end, and,

as likely as not, you were given everything you deserved—
               a yard, youth flaming like the oranges there,
                             rain abstract among the leaves,

but reasonable corroboration for the ontological trees,
               beyond which, you have found little cause
                             to look. The sea's chilled affection

remains your one tangible reward—the past glazing
               your tongue with an ineffective fury. Gusts
                             in the side streets continue

to make the case that we are all foundlings beneath the self-
               sufficient clouds, and will, with impartiality,
                             see similar ends no matter

what knowledge we were refused. Light or darkness escapes
               the clogged and paradigmatic stars—time is not up,
                             but we look done for with as much

irony as melancholy cresting on white caps and the waves,
               or in the clouds again, grim bridges to the end,
                             all our portraits hanging in the gallery

of dusk. Joy—for all empirical purposes—was spread so thin
               as to admit only a few hermits into the hypothesis.
                             You know the stars are not thorns

in some introspective sky, just particle streams, wavy packets
               of light, blown about, harmless unless you recall
                             those over your blue childhood,

that night when the heavens took their place.... Now and then,
               off-white and amber clouds float over from Italy,
                             billowing almost beatifically with belief....

but the term's almost up, you're late home on the local bus,
               car in the shop awaiting parts. First evening star
                             that's not really a star, last petticoat

narcissus by the children's stickmen chalked on the wall—
               there is no connection. A neighbor's leaves blow
                             across your lawn with little consequence...

on the porch, no paper, no dog to greet you with a limping
               faith—and even if you had one now, you'd kick it,
                             for no reason you'll ever know.

Christopher Buckley's 14th book of poetry, And the Sea, will be published by Sheep Meadow Press this spring. (poem in this issue is from that book.) Also this spring, Buckley's second book of creative nonfiction, Sleep Walk, will come out from Eastern Washington University Press which also published A Condition of the Spirit: On the Life & Work of Larry Levis, edited by Buckley & Alexander Long. Buckley teaches in the creative writing dept at the University of California Riverside. (cbuckley@mail.ucr.edu)

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