Listen:

That first creeping-in of fall in August
like a decision that’s been made
but not yet been put into effect. An endlessness
to the sky. High winds that rattle the tall
tulip trees. Hold their leaves up closely,
and you’ll see a browning at the edges
as though they are burning slowly. The man
picking blueberries with his family thinks
alternately of the mass-shooting
earlier that morning at a nightclub,
which he saw on the news that he turned off
when his four-year-old daughter came into the room
and also of his friend’s presentation
on consciousness, which he understood
about a third of, if he understood
anything at all, and he left feeling
both dumber and smarter for having attended.
There’s never not an I, the argument went,
in our understanding, and God, whether
we believe in him or her or it or not,
is our invention, making us all atheists
because we believe in ourselves
more than we believe in anything else.
So the border of every model includes us
and what we imagine. Try putting something
outside the box and you’ve just drawn another box.
Like one of those Russian nesting dolls.
More obscure, though, is his understanding
of the gunman. That he knows he’s absurd
for not understanding how someone can kill
in a world that can produce blueberries,
that he can’t imagine that the sweetness
of it all could be overpowered—that that
can be resisted for anything else like hate,
injustice, self-loathing, sadness. That’s on him.
A failure to think beyond himself.
And the children pick the berries, eating
most of them but saving a few—most are ripe,
some have begun to ferment. And this is his
favorite time of year and he is happy,
under the endless blue sky that is not endless.

Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku.

James Davis May

James Davis May is the author of Unquiet Things. His poems have appeared in Five Points, The New Republic, The Southern Review, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. In 2016, he won the Poetry Society of America’s Cecil Hemley Memorial Award. He teaches creative writing at Young Harris College.