Illustration: Somnath Bhatt.

I am the first of the sky’s monotonies,
the star you cannot pick up from the grass

after I’ve fallen, eons of fallings there.
I move too fast toward taking shape

in figurations of the morning clouds
dispersing when you try to give us names.

I am the name behind the names, remembering
my origins at the formation of the world.

Christians would call me Christ, I’ll take that name
an instant or two, beside Big Bang or Chaos.

But I have others with more jagged edges,
more spiders moiling in the fucking box,

more chance transcendence in a saint’s appearance,
more worms ensouled in a crow’s shot guts.

Try me: I am the sea’s greatest monotonies,
the sea behind me, the sea above, around,

the sea which is entirely me and not,
the gift of giving given by the gods,

the gift of breath I give you to take back,
the sea which is a wave of me, breaking,

the sea which is a metaphor, but I am not.

Peter Cooley

Peter Cooley has published nine books of poetry, eight of them with Carnegie Mellon, the most recent of which is Night Bus to the Afterlife. He lives in New Orleans, where he is the Senior Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Tulane. He has poems in recent issues of The New YorkerThe Southern ReviewThe Sewanee ReviewThe Hopkins Review, and other magazines.