Beginnings, Endings, All the Stuff in Between

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From whiskey river:

A very sweet light is spreading over the Earth like a perfume. The moon is slowly dissolving and a boy-sun languidly stretches his translucent arms… Cool murmurings of pure waters that surrender themselves to the hillsides. A pair of wings dances in the rosy atmosphere. Silence, my friends. The day is about to begin.

(Clarice Lispector [source])

and:

Broom

To remember you’re alive
visit the cemetery of your father
at noon after you’ve made love
and are still wrapped in a mammalian
odor that you are forced to cherish.
Under each stone is someone’s inevitable
surprise, the unexpected death
of their biology that struggled hard, as it must.
Now to home without looking back,
enough is enough.
En route buy the best wine
you can afford and a dozen stiff brooms.
Have a few swallows then throw the furniture
out the window and begin sweeping.
Sweep until the walls are
bare of paint and at your feet sweep
until the floor disappears. Finish the wine
in this field of air, return to the cemetery
in evening and wind through the stones
a slow dance of your name visible only to birds.

(Jim Harrison [source])

and (italicized stanzas):

Year’s End

Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii

The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.

(Richard Wilbur [source])

Not from whiskey river:

“How many beginnings can a story have, Daddy?”

The man chuckles. It is a nice chuckle, tobacco-velvet, a chuckle that says: Oh, the questions my kid asks!

“As many as you can eat, my lamb. But only one ending. Or maybe it’s the other way around: one beginning and a whole Easter basket of endings.”

“Papa, don’t be silly,” the child admonishes in a voice accustomed to getting its own way. “A story has to start somewhere. And then it has to end somewhere. That’s the whole point. That’s how it is in real life.”

The man laughs again. You like his laugh. I like his laugh. We cannot help but feel well disposed toward a man with a laugh like that, even though it is not really his, but a laugh he learned at university, copied meticulously from his favourite screenwriting professor as you and I might copy from our neighbour during an exam.

“But that’s not how it is in real life, Rinny. Real life is all beginnings. Days, weeks, children, journeys, marriages, inventions. Even a murder is the beginning of a criminal. Perhaps even a spree. Everything is prologue. Every story has a stutter. It just keeps starting and starting until you decide to shut the camera off. Half the time you don’t even realise that what you’re choosing for breakfast is the beginning of a story that won’t pan out till you’re sixty and staring at the pastry that made you a widower. No, love, in real life you can get all the way to death and never have finished one single story. Or never even get one so much as half-begun.”

(Catherynne M. Valente [source])

…and:

If See No End In Is
(excerpt)

What none knows is when, not if.
Now that your life nears its end
when you turn back what you see
is ruin. You think, It is a prison. No,
it is a vast resonating chamber in
which each thing you say or do is

new, but the same. What none knows is
how to change. Each plateau you reach, if
single, limited, only itself, in-
cludes traces of all the others, so that in the end
limitation frees you, there is no
end, if you once see what is there to see.

Something in you believes that it is not the end.
When you wake, sixth grade will start. The finite you know
you fear is infinite: even at eleven, what you love is
what you should not love, which endless bullies in-
tuit unerringly. The future will be different: you cannot see
the end. What none knows is when, not if.

(Frank Bidart [source])

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