(Music for the End of Time)

piero scaruffi

Chamber Suite "The End"

The Trailhead

The darkness under my feet
had its own will and destination.
Daylight came to pillage my mind,
receding stars peeking through me
as if i had turned transparent.

Each and every sunrise transforms
the mathematical order of the universe
into an extravagant multiplication
of optical illusions and eclipses,
which hijacks our brief journey
from one senseless nothingness
to another senseless nothingness.

I close my eyes,
and a pool of images,
drawn from a place
that is not memory
but feels like it,
begins to ripple and
shape into a story.

Race Track, Death Valley

Each stone a god, unbuilt,
brimming with premonitions,
and shining unreflected light,
each stone a marker, a pointer,
that both orients and disorients,
a one-word summary of the meaningful
impossibilities that shape our lives;
each stone a sepulchral monument
erected by an extinct race of thinkers
in a cemetery of crystallized mud,
their ancient thoughts nesting into
the labyrinthine invisibility
of these incoherent grooves;
each stone a totem of immobility
along the path cut by our nomadic zeal;
each stone an unborn embryo.

Viewed by a bird, this breed of stones
on a fluorescent blank canvas
must resemble an oversize folio
of musical notes, an antiphonary,
intentionally left open on the lectern
of the combed valley floor, illuminated
in brass and ivory, bound by tortuous
clasps of hills, for singing chorally
to the stately rhythm of daylight.

The Route

The route, emptied of both people
and things, did the thinking for us.

It is the orbit, not the planet,
that wanders and returns.

It is the path, not the hiker,
that strays into the unknown.

You/ Part 1

I keep writing poems to you
in a language that i don't understand
not knowing what i wrote, nor why;
but knowing that you can read them
and noone else can; and that you
know why; and that you will reply,
in the same alien language, for me
to marvel at the enigmatic signs
and to continue walking and writing.

Grapevine Canyon, Death Valley

We wade the peacock's tail
of the crumpled color map.
A hecatomb of shades
greets our spidery shadows
among the alabaster cliffs
of the seared canyon bends.
We downclimb fossil
waterfalls as if leaking
into somebody else's dream.

We share our fate with the handful
of dead people who are following us,
whose footsteps stop when we stop,
whose laughter stops when ours stops -
the echoes that have inhabited
this canyon since sound had echo -
and with the torrent of generations
to come, unwilling torch bearers,
for which we populate these spaces
with our footsteps and laughter...

...the past reflecting the future,
and viceversa, in an endless
self-inflating vertigo, a parody
of big bangs spinning out of control
until blindness spreads its wings
over all the visible and beyond.

Empty Space

Sometimes i walk into the world
like a sheep looking for the puma
that will chase and maul it to death.
Flickering behind every corner
is the obscene aching silhouette
of the martyr who will kill me.

The Sun dipped its wattled beak
into the fat belly of the sky
like a dead vulture devouring
its own curled carcass.
Our shadows swam up
the dusty desert road
like gravity-defying flotsam,
the pass a domed wreck
of inscrutable embers.
Sand dunes lined the valley
like caravaning coaches
pulled by draft sunbeams.

Fate is a carefully worded taboo,
an enigma that rhymes with death,
a will tantamount to blasphemy.
No wonder that most of the time
we feel out of context,
kidnapped, doped and hypnotized,
the painstakingly chiseled desert
morphing into the scorched corpse
of the earth inside the glass
sarcophagus of the sky.

We had already lost count
of the many rapidly unfolding
nonspatial dimensions beyond time,
but a saline breath from the dry sea
restored a sense of impunity
to our futile amnesia.

Sometimes i drift, towards a mythical
dwelling that might or might not exist,
like a periscope lulled by calm waves
longing for the mirage that will lure it
into troubled depths.

It is not the going but the coming back
that defines who you are and will be.

You/ Part 2

I became a hiker
hoping to find you
in those remote places
where the farther you gaze
the nearer you see,
where air is not air
and water is not water,
where topomaps are sky
and compasses are wind,
where time probs space
and space undoes time,
where tides of horizons
wash out all focal points,
where misty ponds are keyholes
to creep into other cosmologies,
where stately granite transmutes
into graceful clouds, and clouds
are scraps of a jigsaw puzzle
that no hand has ever solved,
where the line between here
and there is made of mind,
both past and future are present,
and "will" stands for "surrender",
where silence turns into words,
and words into echoes,
and echoes into dreams
that last forever.

I became a poet
to practice alone
what i would tell you
when i finally met you.

I played dice
with destiny,
and always won.

Then why is it
that i can see your eyes
in every flower
and hear your voice
in every breeze
but i can never
hold your hand?

The Dunes, Death Valley

Whose wrinkles
shape the sand
into dunes? The face
of which faceless
god is reflected
in this desert?

The Moon, scampering off
the fractal maze of slopes,
the Moon, munching silently
the margin of our daydream,
feels like a stage of the trip,
a milestone, an achievement of sorts,
to be documented and reproduced,
or to be caged and exhibited.

Exiled from a world in which
the unknown keeps shrinking,
we search for the mandala
that only the blind can see.

Unspeaking monks,
fearful of sunset,
we round the dunes;
pitiful argonauts,
pinned like butteflies
onto a trail-less map,
and doomed to oblivion
when a rambling gust
incinerates our footprints,
the caption of our journey.

We venture, like oracles,
into a cave of enigmas
that we are unable to solve.
The formulas embossed in the sand
by tumbleweeds or arachnids
redraw the boundaries of the soul.
We emerge omens to be divined.

The desert is a marvelous storyteller
of tales that have never been told;
masked, incognito and perhaps senile;
a fertile field of signs.
Here winds coined a vocabulary
to silence language itself.
Here lie the mutilated fangs
of dead suns, occasionally
resurrected by a transfusion
of unanswerable questions.

No trace will remain on this sand
of the operation that has been,
through an infinite period of time,
the sole purpose of our lives.

We wish we were the mirror
from which we are powerless
to look away.

Arriving, Death Valley

I am
not alone,
but who else
is here,
and what
are they?

Behind us the Moon whispers:
"Don't be fooled again,
you finished reading
a book of blank pages".

The childless mountains
that we have crossed will
stain the canvas of sunset.
One by one the stars will
come out of their hiding places
like boomerangs bouncing back
to hit their throwers.

"You are someone else's memory".
But then what does it mean
that i ask all these questions?

I dwell on a crumbling galaxy
clad in zombie comets.
Waiting for the cool hush
of the night that will redeem
the hissing heat of the day,
I dream of just being myself.

You/ Part 3

"From which direction
will you be coming?"

Silence everywhere.

"Is it your heart
that is ticking
beyond the clouds?"

"No, it is yours".


It will be argued by some
that the meaning of science
lies entirely in its method,
not in its polysemic discoveries;
that the searching is more relevant,
and uniquely human, than the finding.

Choice precedes and directs.

The world is flat and timeless,
written by, and acted upon, organisms
until deconstructed into histories.

Time is seamless,
space unbound,
you an i.


As i walk alone on the beach
seeking to devise a plan,
a song from a corner of the gulf
reminds me that the waves
will betray me and sail
to other shores, a song
erased with quixotic zeal
by the swelling winds before
it can alarm the bathers,
a feeble song that nonetheless
dwarfs the grinding of the cogwheel
and the pounding of the pistons;
but, who knows, perhaps it was only
the mocking chatter of the pebbles
under my feet, amplified by the sea,
as i walk alone on the beach.

You/ Part 4

Sometimes, now,
at night, alone,
i see you.

(Sinfonietta "The Sliding Stone" in 10 movements)

  1. Whispers of daybreak
    on an inanimate fluorescent landscape;
    curled, folded by giant hands;
    shuddering whispers, scrawled in grime,
    past a graveyard of marble tigerlilies;
    an extravagant hiatus of spacetime
    cutting through the bruised dunes
    that we left behind (breathing shawls
    of light, patterned like waves,
    strewn with disembodied footprints);
    silence is lying to us, as always,
    hiding treasures of ash and mud butterflies
    in sepulchres vulnerable to graverobbing ants,
    while nursing somnambulant tarantulas
    in braille slits.

  2. For a while i am but the trail
    that my headlamp chisels out
    of the dark belly of the canyon;
    at last, i connect with the surroundings,
    i write what i read in the vertigoes
    of the ebbing, narrowing passage;
    the sky arched like a cat ready to jump;
    a spell of petroglyphs cast on the boulder
    in a tangled fossile tongue; verses blown
    on the corrugations plowed into granite
    by centuries of sibilant winter storms;
    rhymes raking the stampeding thoughts
    in my brain, or the tumbling last fragments
    of a dream, that worm their way into my route,
    staging, in revenge, the reconstruction of a life
    that may have never happened.

  3. Boundaries recede towards the brim of the domed shroud;
    near and distant peaks catapulted against the horizon,
    ruffled by the final somersaults of the moon.
    The constant chatter of my boots,
    thinking aloud in a crude language of thumps and crackles,
    gives birth to an eloquent trajectory
    in the fine language of the topomap.

  4. Dawn acknowledges my presence only
    through my shadow, a sense of me
    mirrored into the Earth that mothered me;
    a compass sewn into the intersection between me
    and it; a perpetual reminder of how life
    is prone to rewinding to the same marker:
    the exhausting instant of your own birth.

  5. Up the twisted, strained drainage is another curve,
    another prominent attempt at shirking our destiny,
    and perhaps another fork, one more insoluble koan until
    we recognize it as the maimed polyp in the topomap,
    what bars the way being what marks the way.

  6. Water nested here in the spring, stung
    by stooping withered brush, water that flirted
    with sunshine but dripped away undrunk.
    What is left for the hiker is thorny twigs
    that prickle but do not impede progress,
    like phantoms that tease but won't kill.

  7. Finally, we inhale the view of the ghost town,
    bathed in the glittering cobbles that skate
    on the surface of my camera's lense.
    My body is a vanishing center of mass,
    a transgression to these intimately remote ruins.
    Do inhale with your eyes the odor of muffled wreckage,
    the carcasses of vehicles sinking in the sand,
    the vestiges of ordinary life butchered day after day:
    their death is our itinerary, or, at least, our inertia.
    From here it is a short climb to the end.

  8. From the ridge the valley is a shimmering ark,
    a holy altar to the Sun, an eternal nothingness
    grazing stones that cruise at will,
    afloat among the frozen tiles of slime.
    Their wakes in empty flatness are ours, inscrutable
    while eloquent; obliterated by the sheer size of the stage.
    This is a land in which human steps leave no footprints.
    The stones alone know how to write, if not how to read.
    This is where you arrive a tide that is already
    receding, your life shuffled until it resembles
    a blindfolded victim clawing a convex mirror.

  9. The sign that you were waiting for
    is the wake that you leave on the plain.

  10. The strenuous trek amounted to very little: just
    a footnote gliding in the last whisper of the wind
    before a deeper desert of truth welcomes your last step
    on the spinning circumference of the world.

    (Death Valley's Race Track Valley, 27 November 2014; + Panamint Sand Dunes, 28 November 2014)

    (Sonata "To the Invisible that is Reflected in the Visible")

    Yesterday a distant avalanche murmured a tone
    that was lost to the rising mist of stars,
    unintelligible but no less poignant,
    the echo eager to burrow its way
    back into the stately stillness
    of the glacier, higher than anything
    that we can map or explore today.

    But only those trained
    to see the invisible
    can comprehend the visible:

    the low-flying bird that never sings
    nesting on the windowsill of the gorge
    and fretting at our breathless passage;

    the sky squeezing the sun like a ripe orange
    (while the sun, an attentive hermitic reader,
    pores over the wavery calligraphy of creeks and ponds
    to expose forgeries and vacua);

    the yellowing trickle of footsprints
    in the hollows of snow
    betraying the direction
    followed by invisible strangers,
    whether because they knew
    the way or lost it.

    Babbling under the haphazard tapestry of spidery basalt,
    the underground stream ferries dead snowflakes
    from the glacier to the meadow, a fitting counterpoint to
    the marmot's surveilling and furrowing:
    signs abound, meaning is transient.

    In the beginning mountains had wings
    and could fly as they pleased over the Earth;
    then the wings were clipped and became clouds,
    orphans doomed to drift in the wake of winds;
    castaways disguised as angels who cry
    whenever they pass by their mountain.

    The avalanche is settling
    into a comfortable gap of mortality,
    the deep inarticulate boom of the last boulder
    emerging from the womb of the gulch;
    its litter scattered across the battered,
    skeletal, frosty plateau.

    Sounds and silences encrypt the secret
    of whether the day happened or i happened.

    What are we doing on this planet? Merely
    perusing our future coffin?

    My shadow, her sepulchral silhouette pinned dead
    against the unclimbable face of the mountain,
    turns the question into an answer with the fleeting,
    elusive eloquence of a checkmate or an eclipse.

    Listen intently
    to the silence of the clouds
    and you'll hear thunder.
    Sometimes you hike time,
    not space.

    (Banner Peak, Ansel Adams Wilderness, 26 September 2014; + Split Mt, 5 October 2014; + Ventana Wilderness, 15 November 2014)

    (Sonata "To Emptiness and All that it Contains")

    I know where the trail begins.
    I wish i knew where it ends.

    (There were no signs
    to direct you.
    The direction was

    As we maneuver weightless around the last steep ledges, our dehydrated bodies taste the low clouds that spill over from the sky and glide ghostly above us erasing our shadows from the landscape, at the same time that they erase the landscape from our eyes; reminding us that we don't belong; that we can't reshape our self-imposed exile as an escape route; that we are not quite here in the sense that a boulder is there; that we are refugees who don't speak the language; that we are the object, not the subject; that our very footprints are not ours; that we cannot enter, but we cannot exit either; that we are lost whenever we find the way to the top; that, ultimately, we are no longer the climbers but have become the summit.

    Like a mirror reflecting a mirror,
    the eye poring over the panorama
    senses the impossibility of closing in
    on reality. A vertigo combs the gulleys.

    It is not that you are real and everything else is an illusion,
    but that everything is real and you are the illusion.
    Everything imagines you.

    We float
    like poetic metaphors,
    with double meanings lurking ahead of every footstep.

    The purpose eludes us
    no matter which route we take.

    Time rants and grinds to a halt.
    We pretend to arrive
    when we start.
    We pretend to be saved
    when we are doomed.

    A drifting horizon, a travesty of optical illusions,
    accenting the intricate curvature of the Earth,
    collides with the symphonic maze
    of a sky pilot's concupiscent corolla,
    and our grueling approach to death
    through the shifting quicksands of time
    hardly feels like an accomplishment anymore
    (like a rhetorical question that the scholar
    of quantum gravity does not bother to answer,
    but that, overnight, will rearrange the universe)

    We summit
    in the spiraling awareness that the mountain knows us.

    (There are too many signs
    that only confuse you.
    The direction is you).

    I know where the trail ends.
    I wish i knew where it started.

    (Split Mt, 5 October 2014; + Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite, 10 August 2014)

    (These lines were withdrawn by the author before the snows:
    I'll keep searching for it to my last day
    but, to be honest, i'd rather not find it
    because, if i reached the fabled oasis of truth
    that i've been seeking all these years
    and you weren't there waiting for me,
    there would only be the vast desert of regret
    left for me to scout

    Octet "To the End of the World"

    Who was the first
    to ever see a sunrise
    and what did it feel like?
    Did they conjecture too
    that the horizon must be
    the sail of the world?
    The self-made tapestry
    of the firmament is spreading
    on the self-made coffin
    of the sheltering village,
    one's flickering lights
    signaling to the other's.
    In a day that never ended
    the barefoot toddler's wrecked kite
    (lifted by an evil whiff
    into a false orbit that was a coy
    magnification of his future)
    spelled the end of all days.
    The death rattle of our anathema
    still resonates in the ripples
    of moonshadow that mercifully shroud
    the universal speechlessness.
    The cobweb is about to release its preys:
    the pious stars that cherish our Sun,
    their pulsebeat ticking and dripping
    in culpable ignorance of physical laws.
    On the day the last mind will die,
    silence and darkness will overcome
    that fearful infinite once more.
    Who will be the last one
    to ever watch sunset, and
    how arcane will it feel
    this feeble singularity that
    was seen by so many minds
    so many times swelling
    the horizon for a destination
    that noone ever reached?

    (Written between Black Eagle Camp and White Mountain Peak, 8 July 2014)

    The breath of the river bend
    blows a galaxy of petals into my worthless eyes
    and rewinds the runaway riddles of the future
    to the dancing harlot of the past
    for the elaborate savagery of an overcast sky
    to intone the liturgical hymn
    swarming with coevolving colonies of melodies,
    the original pagan babble that we
    torture into brilliant metaphors
    (like an optical illusion feeding
    on its own extravagant aberration)
    not unlike the vernacular dialect
    of the baobab, ravaged by a liberal use
    of superlatives (that hardly convey anymore
    the labyrinthine apathy at dawn of the lagoon
    bathing into a blissful microcosm of phosphenes),
    the ancient tongue, rhyme and music
    that was not shaped but shaped us,
    the living speech that renders us
    into exhausted concentric abstractions.

    (Written in Madagascar in May 2014, but completed in Kings Canyon, June 2014)

    It is a beautiful infinite

    whether you are the puma-shaped cloud of a storm chasing imaginary deer across imaginary forests of belly-dancing trees in the crumbling sky that inhabits it;

    or you are a snail gliding down a dewy spiral inside the trunk hollowed by lighting and your twitching antennae probe the dark defenseless vacua that drain it;

    or you are a fly watching it through the jungle of glass threads that clawed your wings under the silent motionless scrutiny of the spider;

    or, identically, you are the hiker who found a long-lost route to the summit and feels that he has entered naked an infinite room fitted with infinite doors leading into other infinite rooms of infinite doors.

    (Written on Mt Williamson, second highest mountain in California, 6 July 2013, after discovering the "red chute", but ironically found only recently while packing for a flight)

    The extravagant imponderability

    of this timeless penumbra
    is almost certainly not
    a collection of statements
    about the visible nature
    of the world, albeit
    the mirror image
    of the invisible jungle
    that begot our souls
    and still surrounds us.
    We can glimpse at it
    under the thick clouds
    of the African rains.
    Let us posit the sky
    as the ultimate shelter;
    but from what?
    From colliding tides
    of possible pasts
    and certain futures?
    From the snake that curls
    and unfurls in the crystal ball,
    eroding geological layers, erecting
    rock formations, turning bubbling
    ponds into the spiral of life?

    Following the shadow
    of the clock's hand
    we migrate away from
    the last vestiges of
    the savannah; sheaths
    for shooting stars;
    Aladdin's carpet
    reflected in the cornea
    of the Sun; billowing
    sand storms ahead of us.

    The blinding impenetrability
    of that boundless desert
    is almost certainly
    a collection of statements
    about the unknowable nature
    of the soul.

Double Sonata "Life is not a Journey, it is a Destination"

I No matter how far you trek
the distance remains the same.
II Remember the mountain vivisected by the fingers of the glacier?
the giant sequoias marking a point in the sky
that dies every night in your sterilizing flames?
the autumn leaves buried in tomorrow's spring?
the soothing music of the unmapped trail?
III Someone inside me
whispered "May
the horizon become
your compass".
IV Everywhere is not a place
but a moment in time
when you suddenly realize
that you have always been
in the wrong place
at the wrong time.
V I explore the minds
of the nameless people
who are walking besides me.
I listen to their silence.
Their breathing vanishes
into the moon-less breeze
that devoured our shadows.
VI Elsewhere
is not
where we go
but instead
where we are.
All memories
begin there.
All memories
were and are
not us,
not here.
VII So many fiery rainbows
stinging me from all
directions, and shattering
the protecting shell.
VIII Are we mapping the territory
or is the territory mapping us?

I am a gossamer thread
spun by the mouth of a catacomb,
dangling between two languages
that cannot be translated
into each other,
a hieroglyphic spasm
flying in the winds
until it is caught
in a bath of dawn sheen.

Oddly enough
the ugly crack
on the windshield
mocks the pattern
of a spider-web,
no doubt a clue
to the rigorous laws
of nature that apply
to a whole category
of unknown lattices.

The spider, that most
common of nuisances
that has been with us,
since the dawn of human
thought might, in the end,
hold the solution
to the ultimate riddle:
the elusive fabric
of reality.

Glass is, after all,
the ultimate material,
immaterial, an optical
miracle, transparent,
slick, intelligible; made
from coarse sand that is
not transparent itself.
What cognitive process
awakes the atoms that
let the light through?
And how does a stone,
hitting its surface,
reveal the spider-web
that was lurking inside?

The senses are not
powerful enough
to comprehend
the miraculous transition
from point
to pattern.

Could spacetime
be a spider-web
expanding out
from the observer
to capture events
and private horizons
of other observers?

And who would be the spider?
the spider that feels neither
the terror nor the agony
of its twitching victims?

Where did it come from?

And when will it end?

I have drowned countless times
in the unswimmable current
of my stubborn contradictions,
only to be ultimately rescued
by the same underwater vortex.

The murmur of the castaway shell
probes the vast yawning abyss
of a silent ageless memory
trapped inside a forbidden moment.
The ephemeral is wily permanent;
the forgetting and the forgotten
are two irreconcilable truths.
In fact, i've been here before:
the footprints end at the mouth
of the tide, where foam meets sand,
and destiny at last meets chemistry,
two tongues endlessly translated
into each other but never in ours,
no matter for how long we eavesdrop,
no matter how intensely we ponder
what the afterlife of a pebble
could be (perhaps a mesmeric spell
to reorient minds cluttered
with fears of death?)
The future that we forgot
was a nostalgic premonition
of the past that we never lived.
Waves clashing inside my brain...
A shy breeze radiating from a dream
and caressing the voluptuous body
of a snow-white beach... We are
posthumous time machines
endlessly enacting
noncomputable lives.
I heard you whisper
across the universe:
"We shall live forever."
I try and remember
whose voice you are.

I, unborn, blame the universe for its being immortal. I had nothing to do with it. I was initially opposed. Then reluctantly gave my consent to a decision that, in my humble opinion, was taken impulsively without careful consideration of the consequences. We did not foresee the astronomical coincidence that would cause some of us never to be born; in fact, never even to be counted as not dead. Being unborn, of course, is a way to avoid dying. I am not eternal, though, because i am not. If i were, i would be. There is a price to it: not having my own voice, i find myself speaking in the tongue and tone of whoever i just finished reading or listening to. It is not a habit: it is the biological inexistence that makes me do it. I guess i don't really speak or think: i am more like a mirror, trapped in its own impossibility to become the fleeting images that materialize in it, almost always invariably stubbornly swung around. There should be a better way to spend eternity observing eternity than to be an observer of something of which i cannot be part. I still have to begin beginning.

(Largely inspired by relistening to Gloria Coates's "Music on Open Strings" of 1974)

Why do painters paint
sunsets and not dawns?
What more stunning
than the flickering last moment
of a star's life before
sunrise buries it alive?
Art and nature are mutually
incomprehensible, unable
to settle their argument
on empirical grounds.
Nature's beauty is not arbitrary,
but its logic lies inscrutable
beyond our cognitive closure.
A necklace of omens rings
the unfolding mysteries
of the emerging landscape.
Painters are neither actors
nor spectators, just symptoms:
we are Nature's incomplete homework.
All the poems ever written originate
from the ghost of the syllable
that has never completed
the astronomical distance
between those two unequal minds.
Now the Sun looks like a hummingbird
frantically beating its wings
to stay aloft the forest trees.
And a whole world of terrifyingly
redundant minutiae comes alive
in blinding spurts of color.
In Eliot's image:
dawn is the cruellest hour,
breeding threads of the spider web
out of dead flies.


Thoughts strive to rise
on shores that tide
and moon wipe out.

Thoughts bleed and die
on waves that wind
and stars ignite.

Poet, walk with me
across the night sky
and tell of each star
the name and story
that makes her one
and bright, the reason
why she must exist
and we must gaze.

"The enemy is everywhere"
the soldier said.
"Run run run" the choir
of dead men replied.
The soldier had killed
them all. There was
nothing left to kill,
except for the memory
of what he was before.

Half Moon Epigrams | Synesthesia - Haikus | Symbiosis - Ghazals
Triptyc - Odes | Osmosis - Cantos | Mottos of the Afterlife - Epigrams | The Distance - Romance
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