Some say it’s in the reptilian dance   
of the purple-tongued sand goanna,   
for there the magnificent translation   
of tenacity into bone and grace occurs.

And some declare it to be an expansive   
desert—solid rust-orange rock
like dusk captured on earth in stone—
simply for the perfect contrast it provides   
to the blue-grey ridge of rain
in the distant hills.

Some claim the harmonics of shifting   
electron rings to be most rare and some   
the complex motion of seven sandpipers   
bisecting the arcs and pitches
of come and retreat over the mounting   

Others, for grandeur, choose the terror   
of lightning peals on prairies or the tall   
collapsing cathedrals of stormy seas,   
because there they feel dwarfed
and appropriately helpless; others select   
the serenity of that ceiling/cellar
of stars they see at night on placid lakes,   
because there they feel assured
and universally magnanimous.

But it is the dark emptiness contained   
in every next moment that seems to me   
the most singularly glorious gift,
that void which one is free to fill
with processions of men bearing burning
cedar knots or with parades of blue horses,   
belled and ribboned and stepping sideways,   
with tumbling white-faced mimes or companies   
of black-robed choristers; to fill simply   
with hammered silver teapots or kiln-dried   
crockery, tangerine and almond custards,   
polonaises, polkas, whittling sticks, wailing   
walls; that space large enough to hold all   
invented blasphemies and pieties, 10,000   
definitions of god and more, never fully   
filled, never.

  • Pattiann Rogers, “The Greatest Grandeur” from Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by Pattiann Rogers. Reprinted with the permission of Milkweed Editions.

  • Source: Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems (Milkweed Editions, 1994)

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