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  • The Miracle, and: Ancient Theories, and: What Is Not Inside the Head-Sized Box
  • Nick Lantz (bio)

The Miracle

Around the small stone footprint, we built a temple. Each new autumn the seedpods split open as before. No one living today remembers the miracle.

In the story, God doles out duties to each new creature, but when humans arrive he has nothing left to give. Not every stutter in the genome is a miracle.

Outside the temple, the statue of a horse weeps all day. In each loaf we found a mouse baked hard as a peach stone. Onto their alms bowls, the saints carved the word miracle.

Every spring we took the strongest man in the village and nailed him to a tree. We paid three women to grieve. What other animal hungers for such miracles? The saints once carried around homilies heavy as bricks: always beat the beaten dog that comes back to you. Each house we built during those years was a miracle.

When struck, the statue’s limbs yield different notes. The blind man carves thirty soapstone birds every day, each bird more misshapen, each one named Miracle. [End Page 182]

Ancient Theories

A horse hair falls into the water and grows into an eel. Even Aristotle believed that frogs formed from mud, that mice sprouted like seedlings in the damp hay.

I used to believe the world spoke in code. I lay awake and tried to parse the flashes of the streetlight— obscured, revealed, obscured by the wind-sprung tree. Stranded with you at the Ferris wheel’s apogee I learned the physics of desire—fixed at the center, it spins and goes nowhere.

Pliny described eight-foot lobsters sunning themselves on the banks of the Ganges. The cuckoo devouring its foster mother. Bees alighting on Plato’s young lips.

In the Andes, a lake disappears overnight, sucked through cracks in the earth. How can I explain the sunlight lapping your face in the early morning?

Why not believe that the eye throws its own light, that seeing illuminates the world? On the moon, astronaut David Scott drops a hammer and a falcon feather, and we learn nothing we didn’t already know. [End Page 183]

What Is Not Inside the Head-Sized Box

Who can say where Petrarch’s skull is kept, where God hid the body of Moses? The squirrel doesn’t remember every cache of food; he plays the odds just like any of us.

The rebel buries mines in his own fields, knowing that if he survives the war, his plow may one day open a white-hot seam in the earth.

In the pantry, the naked potato sprouts despite its lack of dirt. The fox promises a mountain of gold if you can tell him how many stones will fit in an empty sack.

The Buddha carried a small lacquered box with him on his travels. Though his disciples begged and begged, he refused, even on his deathbed, to reveal its contents. A starving bear will flip over the same boulder again and again, expecting each time to find something to eat.

The empty mind has room enough for only one thought. My dog stares so lovingly at my empty hand. When asked if he could see anything inside Tutankhamen’s tomb, Howard Carter turned and said “Yes, wonderful things.” [End Page 184]

Nick Lantz

Nick Lantz is a copyeditor in Madison, Wisconsin. His first two collections of poetry—We Don’t Know We Don’t Know (Graywolf P), and The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbor’s House (U of Wisconsin P)—will appear in 2010.



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pp. 182-184
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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