Gratitude for Nothing

Gratitude for Nothing

for Ross Gay and in response to his poem, “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude”

Thank you, I don’t know
who, or what,
for nothing
I can know
which something
once was spit from
for no reason
but to be
sucked back
to nothing so that
nothing could feel
what?–its nothingness
more keenly?

And thanks too for
the twin nothings
of past and future
that we imagine
coming from and
going to
within the un-
imaginable ever
suddenness of now
that passes by
so constantly it’s like
it never passes,
which is how it passes.

And thank you for the accidental
wobble of the spinning
planet tilting back
from sun just far
enough to let
this fall day’s chilly
burning away
of green before my eyes
go on burning
before my eyes
without my seeing.

And for these apples, too,
appearing only here
and there on the all
but hollowed out
bent tree two fields away,
the biggest
of them bright as fire
way too high to reach
while from the lowest branches
hang the smallest,
pocked, bruised and so
misshapen you would
never guess how
white and crisp
the flesh is
underneath, or how
the juice spills
dribbling down the chin.

Thank you for my missing
wallet earlier today,
that instant of the worst
awakening when I was
reaching back
to the back
pocket, still safe
in my assumption
it was there,
still safely looking
out from within
the bubble of
everything I had
assumed so deeply
I couldn’t see how
I’d been looking
through a blind
that’s never noticed till
it’s ripped away,
and suddenly I’m
falling in a clarifying
rush down through the
thought of just how
happy I had been
a moment earlier,
happy yet oh so
unaware inside
your heaven
of what hides
when I am in it
while it blinds me
with its brightness
when I’m not.

Thanks, truly,
for so little.
For the shifty
ever busy solace
behind the tortured
logic that would link
loss to beauty,
nectar to sorest need,
the clever ruses
we devise
to make of so little
given something
larger than it is.

And your quantum emissaries,
the blind, deaf, dumb
bacterial hordes
through the cellular
abysses in the body
of the body that
the body on its own
without us as if
it weren’t us fills
to empty, empties
to fill to turn the
hamster wheels
of need we run on
to outrun the need
that keeps us
just as tired
of running as we’re
terrified to stop–
for that too
I should thank you.

But most of all
I give thanks
for the all
but unknowables of
whatever thirst
and hunger led me
in a sleep walk
to this last, this
best love, never
stopping as I
faltered forward
till I found her.

Some day, not
today, not soon I hope,
I’ll thank you
for the great blessing of
obliteration, yes,
even for that, especially
for that, the total
welcome of the total
dark where, if
I die before her,
I won’t ever
have to know or see
whatever burden
my no longer being
there with her
might free her from,
what fresher pleasures
from whose newer touch
she’ll seek–

And in the meantime
let me thank you
for last week
at the opening,
in the hall
with people milling
all around her,
cup of wine
in one hand, how she
somehow caught
my eye so I alone
would see her slyly
slip her free hand
down her pants
and out and
nonchalantly brush
her fingertips
across her nose
to breathe in
her own bouquet,
her pleasure
in herself so
nearly animal,
her pleasure
in my seeing it
so not; yes, thank you,
thank you so much for that.

And for the skin-
tight nearly see-
through lace chemise
that later in the half
dark seemed almost
made of mist,
the nearly nothing
of it that she had
to cross her arms
to take off
over her head
before she got
in bed beside me,

and the mischief
afterward, the sleights
of tongue and finger-
tip by which we
tricked each other
back to knowing
nothing of each other,
emptied of habit,
so intimately nothing
like ourselves
it was as if we’d
cheated on each other
with each other–
so when I picture it,
or try to now,
I can’t imagine
who it is she is
imagining I am.

Which means, I think,
it’s you I’m picturing,
you I’m longing for
And running from,
blind giver and dumb taker,
my stone deaf end
and origin, whom
I pretend
hears me pretend
to thank for being
both somehow
(I don’t know how)
the dangled carrot
tempting me forward
into nothing and the stick
of nothing
nothing beats me with.

Alan Shapiro‘s most recent book, Reel to Reel, was a finalist for the
Pulitzer Prize in poetry. His previous collection, Night of the
, was a finalist for both the national Book Award and the
Griffin Prize.


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