Like prose does the term of our days extend
to the margin of the page
but it does not return, with a slap and a clang,
in the manner of an old typewriter carriage,
of spring-bearing levers and bird-claw glyphs.
Already I have journeyed more than a decade
into this pathless new millennium,
weary explorer who will never reach the pole.
Friends travel beside me, traipsing ahead,
falling by the wayside in the obdurate whiteness
from which all things of purpose have been carved away,
all things parsed and compassed by the wind.
Children follow in our tracks, assuming,
each time we look back, the aspect of strangers;
they exceed us as Olympian gods surpassed the Greeks
who fashioned them in their,
and thus our own, entirely mortal image.
And the illustrious, hard-frozen ocean receding
further into memory with each embattled step,
great whales feeding in the darkness,
their souls like wells of fragrant oil,
the exodus-light of icebergs made plastic
and manifest, that index, that sign.
To the margin but no more.
Like dough which rises to fill the baker’s pan
with a scent of yeast and distant wheat fields,
leaving nothing in its aftermath
but a ruin of crusts, a scattering of crumbs,
avenues for the triumphal procession of the ants.
—Campbell McGrath, XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century