You are here, in this country
of diminishing returns,
on this patient rock
slowly cooling in a cloud.

This is your country,
the only one you can claim;
yet it is no country,
no land, but an eddy of dust
in the holocaustal wind.

Think of a city growing distant
in the night below you—
the bridgelights winking, traffic
no more than a fiery ribbon,
as the aircraft lifts
away and the clouds close in.

Now earth is only a name, and
the galaxies, fused and glittering,
are more than a name—the sum
of discarded theories,
realms of terror and perplexity.
And the woodland you learned
to love has vanished—
no trees bent to the wind,
nothing but the memory of trees,
sand, and pulverized glass.

You are here, on this stretched
and icy field, open range
without limit, with no horizon,
no imaginable hedgerow;
no view but a flickering whiteness
at the edge of deepest darkness.

You are here because there is
nowhere else for you to be,
and you cannot leave without
taking everything with you …

Shepherd and eternal sentry,
the cloud-horses you ride at will,
stars for your sheep,
and a comet for your watchdog.


—John Haines

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 13 Number 6, on page 38
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