All Commentary
Monday, March 17, 2014

The Searchers

Sometimes you move through weathered
monuments and find a place to set your lens
for all time, or like Ford’s withered
protagonists, you gain your prize at
the cost of all else. Or like the wounded
McCandless and Treadwell, with no star
to fix their flight, who found an Alaska
to eat or be eaten by, whose magical carpet
ride unraveled at the feet of their Maker,
with no exotic Marrakesh springing to sing
them perfumed songs of last-minute escapes.

Ansel Adams likened color photography
to playing an out of tune piano, conflicted
by the adventure of developing it, but his
garish fantasies defined a dream of the
American West solidly lodged in the cortex
of fellow travelers in Grand Central Station,
his infinite scale making freedom a stern
train ride away. Wheeling through the flash
bulbs of the Cosmos, Einstein searched
the heavens to find some glimpse of God
staring back, some rhythm to jump start

his heart, yet as a musician, Einstein’s
timing could best be described as extra-
dimensional, or had he been a drummer,
two shoes in a dryer, with minor misplaced
sonic booms disrupting the distant tapestry.
Every hero becomes a bore at last,
said Emerson, and discovery inconsequential.
Even Napoleon, on St. Helena, was obsessed
with the superiority of stout women, as he
picked through his breakfast of poached
eggs, asking “Can’t I leave the battlefield,
even for a minute?” 
Some poor souls seeking glory are left
wounded in their punitive wars and shot by
puny villagers for the gold in their teeth,
or some like Matthew Henson, drag their
black carcass and the frozen assets of
various companions to the top of the world,
only to be ignored by History. To be Gorky
is to discover pools of radiant color clawing
through your canvas, or soap bubbles
bouncing in airborne arcs like children
on rainbow swings delivering abstract
masterpieces from the bowels of Armenian

massacres and to hold your mother,
dying from hunger, in your arms.  
To mesmerize others, one must see the worst
of the world’s colors, to lift your saber like
General Lee in the direction of eternity,
to find your final resting place being whipped
through gauntlets of defeat and disgrace,
to clamber over the unassailable precipice
and drop into nothing at your life’s expense,
to fight out from the bottom or through the wall,
and discover that the journey itself was its own
reward, and that the ardent search was all.

  • Keith Flynn is a the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Colony Collapse Disorder (Wings Press, 2013). He is the founder and Managing Editor of Asheville Poetry Review.