Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1

“Whether the World be finite, and but one”

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     “as who would say, a man could take the measure just of any third thing, who knoweth
     not his owne: or the minde of man see those things, which the very World itselfe may
     not receive.”
          —Pliny the Elder

Here is the painting of the edge
                                 of the world. It is not
                 what you expect. The barn, its door agape,
        its interior implosive with darkness. The split
rail fence, the hand-panted sign
                                 warning away the curious.
                 The lettering is too small to read from this
        distance, and we will only ever see
the edge of the world from this distance,
                                                the velvet cordon
                 bumping at our waists,
the museum guard coughing.

         Someone says,
                          This world is overrated.
         Someone says,
                          Beyond the earth is another.
         Someone says,
                          The artist died of syphilis.
         Someone says,
                          He was struck blind.
         By stroke, says one.
                              By god, says another.

They all agree the painting is beautiful.
                                               In the foreground,
                        a slouching sheaf of wheat. In its center,
                 says the docent, the grain has begun
to rot. Where is the farmer? someone calls out.
Curvilinear roof, asymptotic sky. The title
                                              is cut
                        into the paint with a palette knife. Here,
         it says, Then nothing. What did you expect?  end

“Whether the World be finite, and but one” from We Don't Know We Don't Know. Copyright © 2010 by Nick Lantz. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,