At the known world’s all too finite end,
On the highest floor’s remotest bend,
Our room spells curtains for infinity
And for life itself in Fifteen Twenty-Three.

A sign warns in the narrowed hall
That, go farther, and you’ll fall
Like Magellan’s bobbing ship
Down the ocean’s one last dip:

Nothing in the land more high
Than this, save scudding sky:
Even solar breezes funnel
Through the nearby ventilation tunnel;

Here Einstein, Planck, and no doubt Quine
Watch earth and gasping air entwine—
Although the room card doesn’t mention
Where you find the fourth dimension,
The coordinates of space are herein spec’d
And mitred by the architect,
His railroad terminal design
Positively borderline,

A structure living on the high-rise rim
Of rental life and time-share limb,
Whose Cartesian chambers antecede
Any further housing need,

The ne plus ultra of
Money, life, and arithmetic love,
Beyond which no mere guest
Has any right to rest,

Lest our interference ruin its
Paradise of rationed units,
The one-stop Pythagorean shop
Of Fibonacci’s small whistle stop.

The whole weight of sunlight’s arabesque
Rivets on our corner desk,
The sum total of its countless stars
Now lightbulbs in the minibars,

The ends of meaning in our mirror,
The dusk itself grown somewhat clearer,
Flooding on our ringside window seat
Where time and nothingness can meet,

The algebraic panorama
Of space’s differential drama,
The last legs of the dying day
In this bedroom no cliché,

On the edge where gods consort,
The very model of the last resort—
Even glass here tints one way:
Light comes in and plans to stay,

A hotelier’s black hole
Sponging up the global soul,
Looking out the darkling panes
Beyond which nothing else remains,

Like a bumper on a railroad track
Behind which empty spaces stack,
The cutoff point where what will be
Piles up here exclusively,

A rather tacky interface
On the lip of furnished space,
Where added and subtracted creatures
Frolic in the water features,

The sum of universal fiats
Provided by the godlike Marriotts,
The world series’ final score
Imprinted on our prison door,

The crowning glory of all places,
The point of life this last oasis,
Playing with our random tumblers
By running out of primal numbers.


Here was the end of the world. The last room on the highest floor, beyond which no mortal could walk. Nothing past the final exit but air. Beyond which be dragons. The swaying waterfall at the end of the ocean where sunken ships and souls pile up. By putting an end to endlessness, by asserting to last number, all meanings are made clear, all problems solved, all equations totaled. The universe becomes finite, rather than infinitely expanding.

A problem I had in the second draft was keeping myself from sidling into the concept of the world coming to the room, which I had dealt with in my poem “Delft Light” and others. The idea was more that time and space ended, and with it meaning, being, life itself, in room 1523. Somewhat self-important, but hotels are full of themselves generally. The difference between the second and third drafts was more philosophic than poetic. I had a perfectly good poem, on the wrong subject.

Poetry is an irrational pursuit, and poets often the victims of underdeveloped logic, at least this poet (put another way, no logical person would ever choose to be a poet), so the challenges I set myself involve a certain amount of shoving square pegs into round holes. Making illusions seem logical.

Pure mathematicians would use this as an admission that rhyme and meter are ill suited to such heady goals as proving partial differential equations, but, to the contrary, once achieved, the fit is more impressive because of the necessary grouting.

Truth in itself is rather baggy; it begs for fashion. Sloppiness may be suited to confession, but confession is not the same thing as insight. It is a pumpkin, not a carriage. Truth points out crystals in rocks. Every rock is a geode inside, but you need the holes, the negative space, to see what’s inside. Stones become jewels only once they are set. Art is truth bent into shape. Without the shape, a jewel is only a setting, not a jewel. Words are settings for poems. As the poet James Merrill said, “form’s what informs.”

La Jolla Marriott
July 7th, 2003, 10:39 AM–12:30 PM
(see also “Hydrant”)

September 9th–13th, 2004

Rue de Varenne
May 11th, 2005