from Terra Lucida

                   given that

The clouds
compel the sun

then glow on its behalf.


(The sky trembles
        with the cry of noon

dawn till


Let the shadow 
               over the earth 

fade; let, in the 
coming day, the heart

of light and heat
the frenzy of flame

that orders

make itself 


or so one trusts,       

“the unity of appearance,”


or so one trusts    the givenness of

                      “external perception”

of imagination and memory
of universals and

predicates, of 

and contradiction, 
and nothing . . .


Of olives, of salt, of 
             a jostle of pepper.


Of the onion which, in 
this new instance, is the sun.

                  (Around which all ingredients, 
                   all spices, move.

                   The onion is a sun kept 
                                      hidden in the earth.)


There might be 
a gratitude ready, now, 

to be expressed. 
Nothing ultimate, 



A gratefulness beyond 
the everyday anywhere 

of the mind where we are 
talking more than listening 

but needing at least the illusion 
that we are if not  spoken to, 

beyond any last fantasy 
of an answer, heard.


Beyond even those 
perfections that never 

come to an end, formerly
a foretaste of Paradise:

to be here, now, 
in this quiet,

as sunlight falls 
            on the earth.


On an agonized planet, where the hole inside 
a ravaged body has healed enough

that the excavation of 
a living ruin can continue. 

Now might every organ 
be lifted out and cleaned,

be set back in its place
in an operation that

takes teams of doctors
18 hours to complete.


About to die, a prisoner is 
exonerated. Having bequeathed 

his possessions (even picked his 
last meal) he is in need of wisdom.

Priest, imam, rabbi, prison ethicist, 
tell me, can I ask for my things back?

Or must I stand by my decision 
to give away all earthly possessions

even though the profoundly 
urgent incentive to do so 

has been withdrawn by a fate 
known as the Innocence Project?

What then is the essence, what
are the attributes of the nothing

with which I must now live
when I return to the world?


Givenness of sense to the words in a dream
givenness of the brightness of the moon

and of  the longest day of light
the earth will ever arrange for us,

of beings and objects and
Mt. Rainier becoming invisible.

Givenness of the sound of 
unseen water, of light 
                                         after days of dark . . .


The other day the computer made a sound never heard before.
It went on and on. No one knew what to do.

One could believe all data
and the ability to transmit all data

was coming to an end.
It sounded as if the machine

was out to destroy itself, file by file,
circuit by circuit, until there was nothing left.

A deep sorrow took hold at
the passing away of knowledge

and at the loss of countless hours.
Then someone touched a key.

The noise stopped, a quick 
assessment was made.

Joy came to all those there
at the word that nothing had been lost.


On the solstice, strings of
grey filament, the light of the sky

falls into the lake, the sky goes dark
then the moon appears, so huge, 

as if to you alone, hungry as you are
to withdraw, to simplify, to focus

to strengthen your thought
to understand at long last

the relation of earth to sky.
The age of exploration is over

but the age of enlightenment 
is about to begin; its waiting for you

to finish your meandering.
(Sit down at your desk.)


The moon would have lingered last night
but clouds tore it up and scattered

its light across the sky.
Next day, the trees all spoke

about it, downcast, shaking
their heads in disbelief.

The birds wondered where 
the scraps of moonlight landed.

Was there some field or street 
where the glow of night persisted

into day, or has this rain
dissolved it, so that it trickles

deep into the earth until
the time some passing comet

would call it to the surface,
damaged light, now healed. 


All this is in regard to an 
ever-receding time from which

so little that is coherent
has ever reached you.


Huge crows hop on the sidewalk.
You sip your wine secretly.

Your thought lightens, the 
water keeps falling.


A theologian has said death
gives us the possibility 

of impossibility. What is not 
is not simply nonexistent, 

he said, but is given to us
                        in its nonexistence.


The dandelions in the shade 
of the shed have yet to unfold.

The petals are drawn up in peaks
of yellow, while in the full of

first sun, those rooted there 
have opened, have found

where radiance is, and lean
towards it, offering it back

its own image, a yard full or
yellow stars, after days of rain.

High wisdom from a low weed,
that mirror for the miracle of

a roaring  in the sky, that 
inextinguishable wonder.

So, too, the air which mediates 
a glory that would destroy us.

Once again we return to
the jewel of dew on the grass.

Having achieved perfection 
the dew forsakes its form 

and flies up into the coming 
kingdom of warmth that 

seems to be arriving, now
a kingdom no longer

capable of being denied.
A patch of yellow flowers 

are gathered, they are ready 
for the fullness of the light to be.
Written By
More from Joseph Donahue