Today the world moves from winter’s cold ordeals
And the doubtful promises of a halting spring
To the lavish clocks of summer, to the wheels
And ratchets of planetary spokes that sing
Of beach and sun, of the arbor’s resurrection,
The success of grass and triumph of the trees,
The luxuriance of countryside and gardens
Where fountains sparkle in the rampant breeze,
And not just fountains, but entire solar systems
Turn today from dissonant, uncertain gears
To the music of the spheres, as universes blossom
All at once, as matter to itself adheres
And our limbs connect to others at the end of space,
Through a secret field that joins us all
Like clockwork, matching lovers face to face
Beyond our courtyard’s beautiful but useless wall:
And so the trellis of our fractured lives unites
All things, the living and the dead, no matter where,
As the fulcrum of the year today puts to rights
The watchful symmetries that are always there.
W. H. Auden said, “You cannot conquer time.”
But I think you can. Hamlet believed in 1602 that Caesar died and was turned to clay, and then became other elements. There was a precession of souls, the way planetary orbits precess and shift. John Donne said in 1623, “When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.” The composer John Adams called it a “transmigration of souls.”
June 20th, 2016, was the summer solstice, which to me is a time when this progression, the transition between seasons, between souls—the celestial clockwork—is on our minds.
Our friend Bonnie told us that her husband Joe loved to fix clocks. Bonnie and Joe’s house was filled with broken clocks. Fixing them was a project Joe saved for the future, so clocks meant to him not so much the present, but a kind of promise, something in the future.
This is a poem about Joe’s clocks, and their secret energy field, like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s titular secret garden, where we held the service for Joe. Time travels back and forth on this invisible field of energy, so matter can be in many places at the same time, as we’ve all experienced in our minds.
So this is a poem about the celestial gears that produce the migration we call time.
Modern science believes in this transmigration of energy. Einstein discovered that particles are symmetrical, that they come in identical pairs. When one particle is hit, for instance, its twin particle reacts as if it were hit, even if it’s across the universe. Quantum mechanics calls this symmetry, or energy exchange.
This has always reminded me of the way people who love each other become twinned, the way they finish each other’s sentences, have the same dreams, know what each other is thinking, and come to resemble their dogs.
Two people react as one because they actually are connected. There’s a grid of energy like a fishnet that underlies everything in the universe. Scientists believe this net predated the universe, so that when there was nothing, before the Big Bang, there was actually a grid, a trellis, a field, made up of very low-level energy, which suddenly coalesced into what we call matter, and in a few seconds the universe was inflated, like a raft. But the grid continues to lie beneath everything we see and touch. This secret energy field connects stars, and galaxies, and planets, and people.
In this hidden field, this secret garden, messages travel back and forth faster than the speed of light. So when we have premonitions or even memories, it’s because we are connected by that celestial field. Thoughts come from inside our minds; but they also come from outside. This is the music of the spheres, the common harmonies that make planets hum and keep them in orbit.
August 14th, 2016