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TABULA RASA / Christopher Buckley And endless once again it will begin: life that does not see, speak, or think . . . Nazim Hikmet If anything, it's only the wind that picks up our prayers and carries them off to the sea where it's usuaUy March and hopes float bluely across the surface thorny with whitecaps there . . . We would practice for May Procession, and so often as we marched up the Ughtless center of the church, our smaU hearts spun purely as the invisible rose petals flower-girls were scattering along the sandstone aisle purely as the sun washing through our arms from the one window white with dayUght aU that way up the air. For this, we were excused from class, the mental roadwork of diagraming the compoundcomplex sentence. StiU these nights, the random punctuation of stars keeps me from seeing exactly how, with the fragments presented to us, we can, with any certainty, trace out the lines, the blueprints that reveal God's agreement in it aU. At best, far against the black, there is some chalk dust of nebulae, a smeared palm print of light . . . And though we now know better 50 · The Missouri Review than the old bearskins and bones, the fact is that the universe, lock, stock and expanding barrel, is redshifted and moving away from us, from that firebaU that sent every primordial thing scuffling for its place in the blank backwash of space? Yet each time wUd flowers appear for which I have no names and swaUows weave about Uke theorems substantiating the structure of the skies, I accept the old metaphors for Ufe Uke there's no tomorrow. Nonetheless, there's aU this dead air, un-tuned radio on the frequency of the dark, between us and our nearest neighbor shining high in the tips of eucalyptus. And beyond, the bright bent center of the wheel, the anonymous read-out that permits stars to become the paradigms of our desire? These days, I just look forward to sitting back and breathing among wUd mustard weed and radish bloom until Tm calm and reflective as a cloud . . . and I remember then 6th grade and Miss Vasquez, the sky above La Paz in our Geography text, what it would be like . . . nothing more than a chimney's ladder of smoke anchoring that washed-out blue, that clean slate waiting there; the clouds, those old iconoclasts of sorrow, sliding this way and that, apparently above it aU. But then that first cut fragrance of grass takes me to the foothiUs east of town, Christopher Buckley The Missouri Review · 51 where Tm kneeUng on the blacktop for the Angelus ringing from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, for the seconds it takes to recite the formula for aU we beUeve. In a uniform shirt checked greyly as the sea, Tm driving for a hoop as soon as I've raced through lunch; and not long thereafter, cruising in a Chevy Biscayne, putting a blue moon and consteUations to the test, desperate for some physical evidence of love among the wUd mint leaves and manic cüps of time. And often, at the end of autumn, late in the afternoon, burning that intensly on any account almost makes sense as the days draw short and the roses dry to the color of old Ught, or skin— and the wind that freshened in the last sprays of leaves seems to stream more forcefuUy through the trees, through the channels in the mind, scattering the sUt there with the grey and infinitesimal float of steUar dust. And evidently the universe was once roUed into a baU—quasars imploding, a trilUon stars boxed into one star's size. Now nothing's more abstract or absent with itself than these black and starless holes where everything might one day be thrown back into the past. Now we know that even when galaxies coUide, suns and planets escape as gas and galactic plasma compress and coUapse into a cloud that can't be seen—we only bUndly read it there, pinpoint some faithless spot 52 · The Missouri Review Christopher Buckley where Ught's sucked over and erased, much the way the voice is lost...


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