I see something of God in each hour of the twenty-four.
— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”In the dark acreage of the house a whole hill of love prevents the roof from collapsing. Birds tinge the fringes of my dreaming. It’s the primordial first hour before I remember my own face or whereabouts, when there’s more elegy than light. Lying there in the semidark, the woozy second hour, I try to remember what my life has taught me. When I peer through the living room window, I see a younger version of myself so luminous it makes me pause and really see it how he’s making use of the world as if not using it. The discordant third hour flies apart as the exhaustive free jazz of summer plays until my mind turns on itself. In the ear-giving fourth hour, I think of what’s growing out of my infant daughter’s listening: the third movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, an apple dropping in the yard the clock above her crib no longer ticking. In the allusive fifth hour, a wind plays the fringe of oak trees along the hedgerow. Here, I’m more sack of sand on the levee than Rimbaud’s Sleeper in the Valley , more idle yodler than Flaubert moaning in the solitude of his room at Croisset. In the world-weary sixth hour, I clearly see the legs of youth sticking out from under a heavy stone. In the derelict seventh hour, I want flesh that can endure the rain the cold the heat. Who skinned humanity? Who turned us into smoldering sores? I spend some of the wizardly eighth hour with my nephew showing him three stones: one from Campobello Island, one from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and one from my left kidney. In the bizarre ninth hour, I’m Matsuo Bashō with a camera shooting macro in a stand of milkweed: a lip’s length away from blue beetles, Oleander aphids, and lonely weevils. In the wistful tenth hour, I’m thinking of another hour when I ate bread and pickles under Scotch pines and the thoughts in my head that shouldn’t have been there. The wolfish eleventh hour finds my dog hard on the trail of ecstasy. It takes her three days to get back home. In the terrifying twelfth hour, faces are never put away forever. They tumble out of cluttered closets or startle me in the garden. Under the scrutiny of the thirteenth hour, my mother asks if I’m a “junkie.” In the fog of the drug I hear, “commie” and reply: “absolutely not.” In the stagnant fourteenth hour, my wife is the pimiento in the olivegreen pond. In the furious fifteenth hour, my nephew’s fist burdens the wall. My neighbor will see him later on stunning himself against the horizon like a tiny bug hitting a windshield. In the bookish sixteenth hour, I loaf next to the sea in my head. I keep peering into a world of erasures, but I can remember smelling Menelaus’s dead seal skin and the ambrosia under his nostrils, the tobacco smoke from Captain Ahab’s pipe before he tossed it into the sea, and the stench of sulphur in Nemo’s saloon as the Nautilus propelled through volcanic seas. In the clocklike seventeenth hour, each minute comes with its own liner notes short on revelation. In the mindful eighteenth hour, a serene repose. I know things on my back at night. In the cosmic nineteenth hour, Pluto is no longer just a blip in a textbook with arrows pointing at it, but a contrastive body out there in the darkness. In the shaky twentieth hour, my head on a pillow a home growing all around me with ample windows and doors left wide open for the forest for my thoughts for the renouncer in me. In the beer-soaked twenty-first hour, I’m made sad by the boy I barely remember being, losing him in so much space and time, in so much muck and honey. In the disheveled twenty-second hour, the oft-repeated phrase of my youth returns: Your shoes are untied . An incurable truth. Was it meant to strike fear in my heart? Was my mother a chaos theorist? When she moodily lumbered from room to room, was she trying to figure out why the universe didn’t immediately annihilate itself? Did she interrupt her nightly reading of Danielle Steele’s Season of Passion to ponder my unstable granny knot? In the tender twenty-third hour, if I were to turn on the harsh bedroom light and help my wife out of bed, I would see the ugly rhizome and lateral shoots, but leaving her there, unblanketed in the moonlight, all I see are leaves and flowers. At last, in the inconclusive twenty-fourth hour, how many cracks of dawn are there, how many suns and moons, fires and waters, how many stones and untold hours? What else can we do, but diddle away time at the kitchen table every morning and wait for that light to burnish the dark acreage again, show us the ranging hills, a hundred paths, and a love we haven’t learned yet?