World Without Finishing

Peter Cooley

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 forestin 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 youwithout such illustration of what occurs to me
at dawn now, in my seventies, but this one imageis what I turn to, stuporous and half-awake,
my aching hand about my coffee cup assurancethe 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 drawof 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.

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Peter  Cooley

Peter Cooley was born and educated in the Midwest and has lived over half of his life in New Orleans, where he is Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Tulane University. The former Poet Laureate of Louisiana, he received the Marble Faun Award in Poetry from the Faulkner Society and an Atlas Grant from the state of Louisiana. He has published nine previous books, eight of them from Carnegie Mellon. Married and the father of three children, he has published poems in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Atlantic, and a number of anthologies. (Author photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

“Peter Cooley knows the notes to the sacred songs. World Without Finishing reveals once again how close to their luminescence he interprets those songs in language such that his poems read like psalms from the constellations. Here we find wisdom in each cadenced utterance, in each spirited chord.”
—Major Jackson

“Reverent and penitent, these poems are devotional in the best sense, celebrating the fruits of the earth while desiring also the ascetic’s hunger.”
—David St. John

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