Standing in sand a physicist once
told me that water has no memory.
The movement of waves a continuous
forgetting and forgetting
Of the feel of rock, and children’s feet,
and wind’s embrace, and fish sloughing scales—
surface tension no shape at all,
simply a fragment of a thought
too miniscule to be remembered,
like those songs my grandmother sang
for an entire youth but despaired of
as her mind wrinkled before death.
And once, a Turkish friend told me
that forest fires were algorithmically beautiful—
the mathematics of combustion, the eating of a tree,
the numbers patterning
behind heat and light ending
in the faulty scrapbook of charred remains.
I remembered I had seen mountains black with night
Alive with fire’s children,
the leftovers of some young boy’s 4th of July
and oddly I thought I caught echoes
of Wallace Stevens’s death mothering beauty.
I asked a lawyer, once, if God could be surprised,
if he paused over Gaelic
spoken at a farmer’s market in downtown Cleveland,
or raised eyebrows at people farming potatoes
in fields close enough to hear the lazy grace of icebergs.
The lawyer responded as a blue-grass fiddler,
“God cannot be surprised, but in his restlessness,
he tries anyway: the myriad orchids and sea creatures,
all created in a vain attempt to gasp.
How else can you explain all the beetles in the world?”
I can’t explain them—the beetles or the eons
Without startled laughter.
So I imagine God gasping as you do when water is cold enough;
the sudden memory of feeling what you had forgotten.