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World Without Finishing

At the end of The Family of Man
the last photograph, a boy and girl,

probably siblings, five and three maybe,
pose, backs to us as they enter a forest

in soft focus, the leaves silver, shivering
toward expectations beyond the scope of dawn.

Beneath it: A world to be born under their footsteps
Saint-John Perse. Reader, I wish I could speak to you

without such illustration of what occurs to me
at dawn now, in my seventies, but this one image

is what I turn to, stuporous and half-awake,
my aching hand about my coffee cup assurance

the body I am carrying is a gift,
one I will give back after the last days.

That we live again is certain, that our death
is always imminent: this is the breath I draw

of faith recurrent as the sun now dappling
my back window, dappling my front at dusk.

The children walk off, they are any one of us
come back; they walk toward their death.

Immortal, you and I, soon to be born,
rush out to enter them again.

Peter Cooley

World Without Finishing
Carnegie Mellon University Press

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