Charles Swanson


For thy steadfast love is great above the heavens,
thy faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Psalm 108:4, RSV

A day when air carries on its bosom, lap, wings, or fingers no obstruction—
I mean no cloud, no vapor, no sun-dazzling bright spot reflecting from waves
to make me think I am not seeing through—vision ends somewhere.

I wonder how far the line of demarcation where sea meets sky,
a thin line of white to hint that wave and wind are not the same,
a horizontal slit like a window shade pulled down, saying,
as sun pours through, there is a greater expansiveness beyond.

How many miles out is that, there on the curve of the world,
where my world seems to stop, where, if I sail toward the promise of intensity,
the lightline recedes even though light pours all around me,
washes me in my air-breathing atmosphere as the ocean washes fish?

How many miles out is that and how does one measure a distance that recedes?

As is the ocean so are the stars. Even the stars stop vision,
but the spaces between them,
the interstices, the emptinesses that keep retreating!
How far do I see into the sky when I look into the blankness of night?
Does vision have an end? Do I really see further inside my own brain
than out into the world where hill follows hill follows hill?
Where hill of earth gives over to hill of wave gives over to hill of star?

You have to stop reading this somewhere. But if you step outside
and start plucking words out of the invisible air,
you would not have enough baskets, storehouses, or stars.

And even more, there is a word that encompasses every word,
in which every other word has a home and a smallness,
a word that was in the beginning, a word that was with God,
a word that is God. Now, that word is a world and a word.