Thursday, October 16, 2014

C. G. Hanzlicek: "Mystery"

          The self is no mystery, the mystery is
          That there is something for us to stand on.
             —GEORGE OPPEN

There are no guardrails at Canyon de Chelly.
On the very edge
Of the great brow of rock,
I suffered a vertigo
That tied me forever to the earth.
I want to be here,
With the oak floors creaking under me,
And outside, among the flowers,
Where the columbine
Sensibly dies back upon itself
In the first freeze.
The mysteries are all here:
Roots, the leaves turning,
The spiders hard at their geometry lessons,
The seed that obeys perfectly
Its own limits,
The worms turning among the leaves,
Turning the leaves to compost,
Dung beetle and bottle fly,
The fluting of the white-crowned sparrow,
The shrill cries
Of the flickers, newly arrived,
The dog at his dreams,
The airiness of the dogwood,
The heaviness of the cork oak,
And the Bradford pear,
Burning its deepest reds like a candle flame,
And the sun, most mysterious,
Will be almost that red
Just before setting this evening.
The muddiness of the self
Can be forgiven, almost forgotten,
In the clarity of late October.

"Mystery" by C. G. Hanzlicek, from The Cave: Selected and New Poems. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.  

Art credit: Detail from photograph by Roz Shirack (originally color). Caption: "The upper Ye'i Trail [in Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, Arizona] had magnificent views if you were brave enough to stop and look."


  1. Your book was in a bag stapled shut in a shed on the side of a manufactured home. There were two plates, two blankets and a pillow in a box in the shed. Your book stars. What did you say to wind up there? It is my little mystery.

    1. Your little mystery has me very curious. Can you say more?


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