Today's poem is by Mark Doty

Theory of Incompletion

I'm painting the apartment, elaborate project
involving edging doorways and bookcases,

two coats at least, and on the radio
—the cable opera station—something
I don't know, Handel's Semele,

and either it's the latex fumes or the music itself
but I seem never to have heard anything so radiant,

gorgeous rising tiers of it
at some point ceasing briefly,
then cascading again. As if baroque music

were a series of waterfalls pouring in the wrong direction,
perpetually up and up, twisting toward the empyrean.

When a tenor—is he playing
the role of a god, perhaps the god of art?—
calls for unbridled joy in an outburst

whose golden form matches the solar confidence
of its content, I involuntarily say, Ah!

I am so swept up by the splendor,
on my ladder, edging the trim
along the crown molding, up where

the fumes are concentrated. Is this what music is,
a seemingly endless chain of glorious conclusions?

I am stroking the paint onto
every formerly white inch,
and of course I know Semele will end,

but it doesn't seem it ever has to; this writhing
stacked superb filigree denies the need for closure

—let it open out endlessly,
let door after door be slid back
to reveal the next cadence,

the new phrasing, onward and on. I am stilled now,
atop my ladder, leaning back onto the rungs,

no longer painting at all.
I am the rapture of denied closure,
no need to go anywhere.

If God is entirety forming and reasserting itself,
then this is what the supreme must be like,

an endless, both the nothing
against which forms arise
and the variable patterns themselves:

self-enfolding, self-devouring of which Handel
constructs a model in music's intricate reapportionment

of minutes. And then there's barely
a beat of a pause before we move on to Haydn,
and I am nowhere near the end of my work.

Copyright © 2006 Mark Doty All rights reserved
from Lumina
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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