Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Meaning of Life, in 20 Stanzas

To admire the simple lines and serene elegance – in a word, the beauty –
of this unassuming, little, purple plum

to analyze it into its smallest constituents, its bound quanta of energy,
of organic molecule, atom, electron, proton, quark, meson, gluon, Higg’s boson,

to mark its modest place in the multifactorial hologram of spacetime
between the quantum vacuum and the arguably infinite multiverse

to notice how it is shaped
a little like a heart,
a little like a scrotum
before it wrinkles

to pop up from a blossom
on a black, slim bough
and hang there, thoughtless,
under the sun and the bees,
until an overworked field hand
plucks it down and puts it into his basket
before sending it off to market

to sit bored on a produce shelf at Whole Foods,
spritzed every few minutes by a mist to keep it
Looking Fresh,
for weeks at the height of summer,
its price going down half a dollar a pound
each week,
until a price-conscious shopper
snaps it up, in a ridiculous little bag,
from the throw-away bin,
for a truly insulting $.19 a pound

to decay with slow dignity in a fruit bowl,
where it was forgotten when the family
left for vacation

to set it on a table
and paint it
in the 10,000,000 ways,
from Shubun to Chardin to Picasso to Damien Hirst

to stick it on the nose of a clown
followed by an amorous butterfly
trailed by a delirious frog
and eyed by a suspicious acrobat
left behind by a bankrupt traveling circus

to exchange it for credit in the commodities market
against a future shipment of papayas,
kumquats, huckleberries and passion fruit

to combine it in a clever scientist’s laboratory
with an orange and an apricot
and come up with the ingenious

to weigh it in a grocer’s scale,
take it home at Christmas
and cook it in a pudding
and serve it with brandy
in flames

to dry it until it becomes a prune
and distribute it to elderly folk who suffer from irregularity

to wait until the little plum
is perfectly ripe
(testing it every day
until it feels soft
and tender)

giving it one last, admiring glance,
open your mouth
and eat it
                        then take its pit,
drop it
into a hole
in the garden
and grow it
into a plum tree
where its delicate, pink flowers,
will always be the first blossoms in spring
and young girls and boys in Chinatown
will carry them through the New Year’s streets

to write a hymn praising the plum
as it sails across the heavens,
like a fat, purple moon,
rising to play its part
in a feast of the gods

then disappear,
like a magic act
in a hushed theater,
the lights streaking through the darkness
looking for it,
though it is never
to be found

visions of Plums
dancing in children’s dreams
in the night

to see it with the eye
of God.


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