A Teleology


The purpose of hail is to make you feel

unloved, as you do now: stooped

beneath your umbrella, parenthetical,

a barrage of white bullets strafing

the sidewalk and bouncing

around you, panicky bits of idiocy.


Hail so palpable it startles you back

into a day decades ago, into another

suddenness of sleet you sprinted through,

pressing sodden arithmetic worksheets

to your chest. Such is the way


of memory: to be a fish glinting

to the surface, then vanishing

through the murk, leaving a brief

burning in the eyes and throat, a sweet

Keatsian ache. The purpose


of Keats is to make you happily

melancholy over the muddle and smutch

your life has become, like yellow residue

in a shot glass, like the causeway's

last gray indicium of a squashed frog.


The purpose of frogs is to stay frogs

and not be princes, but to bring princes

to mind—as the purpose of a prince

is to commission his image in marble,

whose purpose is to go unchiseled

if possible so we can't see the god in it.


The purpose of God:

The purpose of blossoms: to be gone, forgotten,

or plucked, tucked into a book, so we might

pretend death is a sleep. The purpose

of sleep: assent—as a song, dropped

onto a spindle and spinning, assents


to be played on a jukebox, whose purpose

is to stir in you a mood of gooiness

about the past, about a record you half-remember

and would play, if only the jukebox

were not empty and unplugged, had not become

a dumb emblem of nostalgia. But the song


is nearer than you know. It's a part

of the world, of the weather, like this hail

you've escaped from by stopping

beneath an awning—it's an old melody

you've loved so long unthinkingly

everyone but you hears you humming it.