River Ontology

“Everything is holy!” Allen Ginsberg, 1956


Along this reach of the river, snow outlines
empty limbs of the cottonwood,
green spruce branches
are weighted by white clumps.
Midstream, a few rocks topped by snow
break the moving sheet of water.
From the current’s edge west to the forest
a meadow extends pure white. What is the purpose of a universe
that contains such beauty? When time and matter were one,
the location that was each potential future instant
did not float in a where. The primal speck of energy
was all the All needed to be. What, then, impelled existence
to abruptly form? I do not believe poverty is holy,
nor the act of parents who sell a child,
nor men and women preaching that a god
demands the murder of other people.
The panic of the middle-aged man who stops me on the sidewalk,
terrified because he has left his wallet on the bus
and no one will help him recover his ID, his money,
is abnormal, disturbed we call it,
hardly sacred. That which is designated “holy”
by those officially appointed to award the term
is intended to possess qualities that transcend
humans’ ability to attain them – virtues we can only worship
or try to emulate. Rather than venerate pain, or an alp,
though, let us stand up for our wholesome selves.
Let us accept that in the presence of
fields of snow that sparkle back at sun
a sensation of joy suffuses us, as in the June woods, too,
we might be overwhelmed by pleasure
at the trees’ gifts. Can we not acknowledge such sweet mysteries
or the entire cosmos, experience awe
at the body’s delights and weirdness
without kneeling? We have no way of confirming
angels feel rapturous in the divine presence
or if for them it isn’t just another day at work.
We do know a human possibility
is exaltation when we encounter the good. Let us praise
to and for ourselves
the best of ourselves,
the bend of the winter river.

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