Before There Was Before

“Before There Was Before” was first published in the journal Common Ground.


Before there was before, there was still before,

no verb to carry the abyss.


Light from dark, this from that, an easing

of boundaries, a slit

making a run for it,



blue at the edge of that pose.



The Big Bang hurled all the starstuff

ever to be made—brazen tumult,

lashed by the muscle of spume,


hydrogen and helium waiting

for their rings to close,


dark tonnage, billions and billions

of mewling seedstars,


all burning and burning

themselves out, the universe

braced to decay.



The shoulder of one boulder settling

against the shoulder of another.


Canyons cleaving, granite

wrenched free.


The apple asleep

inside the sleeping tree.



The tide slinks in.

Shelves of blue-green algae.







Shaggy-maned mushrooms

sink and dissolve. Beneath,

beetles frill.


Pea vines, holdfast clovers.

Bees shiver the white throats—


Whales slip through the slot.

Baleen and blue milk spilled

through all the rooms of the ocean.


Long lives call and click

the grievous migrations.


Sharp-shinned hawks seize

their trophies, clamping down

the whole lid of air.



When trees come, they are meant to

be climbed.


Stay away, or come, or come

just this far—you and I are

here, the compound of us,

a colossal conjunction.


And the calendulas in the field

who are riddled

with life-spark and flaws.


Let’s take a stab

at the dark, let’s

time our tea,


if we have tea,

if we have time.