Rope's End

By Howard Nemerov

Unraveling a rope
You begin at the end.
Taking the finished work
You pick it to its bits,

Straightening out the crossed,
Deriving many from one,
Moving forward in time
And backward in idea,

Reaching to finer elements
And always thinner filaments,
From rope to cord to thread
And so on down to splinters

No longer serpentine
That break instead of coil
And that will blow away
Before a little breath,

Having attained the first
Condition, being dust,
No longer resembling rope
Or cord or thread or hair,

And following no line:
Incapable of knot or wave
Or tying things together
Or making anything secure,

Unable to bind, or whip,
Or hang till dead. All this
In the last analysis
Is crazy man's work,

Admitted, who can leave
Nothing continuous
Since Adam's fall
Unraveled all.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1967/09/ropes-end/305176/