“Prayer for the Unrung Bell” by Dick Westheimer

Dick Westheimer


Only entropy comes easy
—Anton Chekhov

Here’s the good news:
The universe is expanding
faster than it runs to nothing.
The other news: there is no way 
to unchew a sandwich, to turn
what’s in our bowels back 
to bread and burgers, no way
to cook the burgers back into cows 
the buns back to flour and yeast.
We can’t unfroth that yeast or turn 
the wheat into soil and water, 
nor can we return the cows to being 
calves, the calves to mother’s milk,
the milk to cud, the cud to grazing,
the rain to fall up to the clouds. 
As for the soil? It is made of the fallen, 
the undone, the remains of rotting 
flesh, the dust of mountains, all 
the ravenous micro-beasts digesting 
buried kings and fallen oaks and shoemakers 
and shamans and what raptors leave behind—
all these thus consumed called on to 
make a bed for seed and root, for waves of grain 
for the towering pines we hew 
into floors for our homes and pallets 
to lie upon and cradles for our babies 
who might grow to be poets,
poets who will make whole shattered glass, 
unstir honey from hot tea,  
praise entropy, lasso receding stars, 
and laud heretics who make virtue 
from the fragments of a dying cosmos,
disbelieve popes and princes,
and wander to places where no one knows 
things fall apart.
They return with a message: There is no 
arrow of time. Chaos has a brother who 
knows how to turn sandstorms 
into skyscrapers.
This must be true or else, how could I rise 
each day and greet the raging fires,
the rasping breath of my dying father, 
war drums pounding, women stripped 
of their babies, glaciers sliding to the sea?
Yet, the cosmos grows possibility 
and we and the expanding universe are
hopeful pieces of the always falling apart.

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022


Dick Westheimer: “I began this poem fascinated with the images on entropy that came to mind—especially the physical state of things which inevitably moves from order to chaos. This is ‘the other news’ of the poem and once I began reflecting on a few of these—the un-chewing of a sandwich, the un-stirring of honey from tea—the poem took me down a Calvin-and-Hobbes wagon ride of cascading images. At the bottom, the poem found hope—I found hope—for the restoring of order out of chaos: hope in the form of poets and soil and babies and heretics—and the news that the universe is expanding. I am temperamentally a Cassandra so discovering ‘hopeful pieces’ in a poem that began with how things fall apart was a welcome surprise.” (web)

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