Monday, January 26, 2015

The Button Holding Together the Universe

The Button Holding Together the Universe

I was taking a walk with the girls down 39th Ave
when I happened to look down and see a clump of

faded golden grass. Some would've said the grass was dead,
some might say latent, not sure what I would have said,

maybe something ludicrous like center of the universe,
but I would only say that because in the center of the grass,

dead center, was a golden button, the same faded
gold as the grass it was laying in, as if the two were fated

to be found here together; the way the leaves
were splayed out around the perfectly circular curves

of the plastic button, and the four little holes
suggesting a square, pointing to the four poles,

as if squaring up the center of all that infinite space surrounding.
The button seemed to be holding together the world, suspending

the earth itself, just as Wallace Stevens' jar in Tennessee
did -still does- holding back the hills leading up to it. I was lucky

to have been there just then, to see it all so improbably
arranged, just so like that. I picked up the lucky

button and put it in my pocket, aware now, suddenly,
but not then, yet, that I had just unbuttoned the universe, as crazy

as that sounds, even to me, but I'm not that crazy.
I didn't think about it again for a few days, but then I

put my hands in my coat pocket and there it was,
and there it was again the next day too. I would buzz

a little bit every time I touched the cool plastic
of the button between my thumb and fingertip,

like a talisman, or worry bead, or old Roman coin;
I was rubbing it like it really was some magic thing,

and not just some piece of cheap trash. Or maybe it was trash,
but either way, when I picked it up, it took on the weight of a fetish,

proven through the constant seeking of my own unconscious touch.
So flash forward to last night at Dynaco, after Anselm and Eileen read such

beautiful poems, and I'm talking to Anselm's daughter, Sylvie, at the bar.
She is showing me her button collection. Are

you kidding me with this? It was a terrific collection, but I smiled
with smug satisfaction because I knew I had a trump button. I pulled

the gold-dollar-sized one out of my pocket and unfolded my hand.
Carley Moore was there and she she asked me, Are you going to give that

to Sylvie for her collection? No, I said, I can't give her that one!
There was an awkward pause. Sorry, I said, I have to keep that one,

Because I found it perfect in a halo of golden grass, like Whitman reborn
and holding up the tender button of Gertrude Stein, like a gemstone.

I thought it was holding the universe together! I can't let anything happen
to that one, sorry, kid. Carley must've been embarrassed for me. But flipping

the whole script was Sylvie, because she just reached in her pocket,
pulled out a tiny red button and handed it to me. I took it

and then the thought slowly dawned on me that I was an idiot. I pulled
the big gold button back out of my coat pocket, rolled

it once between my thumb and fingers, for luck, or something
like that, and handed it over to Sylvie. But here's the cool thing,

the little red button is now the new talisman, and it's mine!
at least until the next time some kid wants it for her own,

and then I hope I won't be so slow to hand it over.
It's funny to think that maybe the button holding together the universe

will only hold the universe together when it's given away,
but that makes more sense to me now I have to say.


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