C


In the universe determined by the letter
C, the ocean seems invisible behind its security
Blanket of fog, as absconding as those gods we've chosen
Lately to disbelieve in, though the creeds
They taught us can still be professed at moments
Of uncertainty or stress. A hundred
Curious events happen here that happen nowhere
Else, coincidences too odd to credit
Except that we have seen them with our eyes:
Ice palaces created by the condensed December
Breath of sleeping bees; a replica in sugar cubes
Of Bernini's imposing colonnade; a great aluminum C
In Civil Rights Square formed from a hundred
Million crushed Pepsi cans commemorating Michelson
And Morley's epoch-making experiment of 1887 that proves
That everything moves at the same speed if viewed
From the right angle. Nor is that all there is to see,
For look up there at the peak some people call
The Crest of Charlemagne and others simply
Charlie's Nose. Lesser letters–an H, a D, an N,
Even the eager-beaver vowels–can't really compare.
O might be thought more all-encompassing
But it excludes too much, achieves closure
Too easily; it could never become, as C so often does,
A cradle or a caudle bowl. X is more versatile,
Will stand, quite literally, for any value you give it,
But you can't cuddle up to an X. U is the closest
Any letter comes to C, and its certainly true
That I love U, but only because I learned to love
C first. C, this is for you. Love, T.


                                                 –from MCMLXXXIV


Tom Disch, Yes, Let's: New & Selected Poems, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.