Edvard Munch, The Sun, 1909 (Wiki Art)


Among the Errancies

Continue by just trying to be one man,
not multiplicities like the cloud cover.

Mimic the sun. It’s one no matter how
gulfstream weather darkens, thickens,

dispensing promises of rain with gray.
Every day a constant, shifting paradise!

Paradise! What else to name today,
walls around the garden my breath I’ve blown

to circumscribe this little space that’s mine?
Eve and the serpent are intertwined

with their temptation and the storied fruit
I won’t be eating this time, occupied

with naming animals I’ve never seen.
Every day they have to be made up:

that beast with four heads, this bird with scores of wings.
I’ll call those just yesterday’s menagerie.

Something is coming toward me as I sing.
What new fish, fowl or animal

will I make of this monster, naming him?


Unanswered Questions

The birds are doing their homework, singing trees
into a vision I have never claimed
until this instant. My homework? To raise wings,

claiming the music of my dead sparrow
I am chosen to resurrect and resurrect,
the unheard music of the wind, mid-summering.

And the homework of the stars just coming out?
Still cloud-shifting, it constitutes a page
in the eternities, always underfoot

while we are here. Stars have so many decades
of our lives to answer, so many unread tomes,
papers to write, oral reports to draft—

Small wonder constellations refuse even a nod
to any questions: Is this Death? Life?
Am I reborn or waiting for my birth?

The stars are always behind, terrified
they won’t have yesterday’s homework done
by breakfast. They will be up beyond first light—

Published in the April 12, 2019 issue: View Contents

Peter Cooley is Professor Emeritus of English and Director of Creative Writing at Tulane University where he taught from 1975 to 2018. His eleventh book of poetry, The One Certain Thing, was published by Carnegie Mellon in February. He is poetry editor of Christianity and Literature and was Louisiana Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017.

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