Terms of Art

Terms of Art

From Harvesting Darkness: New Poems 2019-20233

Terms of Art
(for Cherrie Moraga)

Some people, they claim, manage to die
peacefully in their sleep. How
can anyone tell that? How does anyone say
how anyone lives or could die—above all
in their sleep? For in that sleep who knows

what wakenings may come? The mystery slams shut
and locks behind you once you enter it. Only the one
question—what now?—endures. No matter
how you answer that, you’re dead. Nyctophobia is fear
of darkness, octophobia fear of light. Terms of art.

The best you can long for and dread is to live
out your life as an artist, I’m betting. Preoccupied? Yes.
Arrogant? Certainly. Fools snarl, “Elitist”–as if
this didn’t demand obsession driving its relentless
harrow across your lifework’s form, plus pitiless

indifference to the cries of those who dared believe
you loved them—and so you did, for rare moments wedged between or at the edge of magic, when dailiness was not
irrelevant, not trivial and tortuous like need.
But that required will, your will to choose

love of darkness or of light, the will
to select one aim above all others, to bend every
action you thereafter take toward that sole end
to which each string of your existence
vibrates, the worst you dread and long for, the life

you chose. Who cares how you will die? Some aneurism
might bloom inside your skull, cascading perfection
you’d once crawled through days and thrashed through nights
to find: that rupture beyond peace, unprofanable—only to laugh
at the last, because it was never attainable.

Published by Spinifex Press