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Christopher Buckley

Photo by Matt Valentine

Christopher Buckley has won the Zone 3 Poetry Award contest for his poem, "Chaos Theory," which was published in Zone 3's Spring 2013 issue. He is the author of nineteen books of poetry, most recently Varieties of Religious Experience(Stephen F. Austin UP, 2013). Recent books include Rolling The Bones, winner of the 2009 Tampa Review Poetry Prize,and Modern History: Prose Poems 1987-2007 (Tupelo Press, 2008). Buckley was a Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry for 2007-2008, and has been awarded the James Dickey Prize from Five Points Magazine. He has received a Fulbright Award in Creative Writing to the former Yugoslavia, four Pushcart Prizes, two awards from the Poetry Society of America, and is the recipient of two NEA grants in poetry. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, FIELD, The Iowa Review, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, and elsewhere.

I.  Chaos Theory

“The systems that the theory describes are apparently
disordered, but Chaos Theory is really  about finding
the underlying order in apparently random data.”
                                                                          —on-line definition

"there is no such thing
as no such thing"
                   —Dennis Saleh

3.3 billion years ago we caught a break . . .
      bacteria on a meteor falling
from the far side of nowhere splashed down
      (one place much like the next)
and this cosmic ham-bone converted
our atmosphere to one with
oxygen from one without—all it would be
our good fortune to breathe
as we eventually crawled out from under
the rocks and sat around
beneath banana palms and birds of paradise
formulating philosophies
about the origins of beauty, why there is
something instead of nothing,
if there is any meaning in meaning, and
how unlikely it is
that anyone will ever bat over .400 again . . . .
Even post-Eden, the trees
seemed organized and cooperative as we
gathered things, looked up, and,
in a range of voices over un-swept savannahs,
praised and gave thanks beneath
the unstained light of the Corona Borealis
for Beaujolais and stock
derivatives, stars falling every which way
across the old hanger dome
of Pangaea—industrial revolution, gold,
and dust beyond our dreams.

Thrown in as a bonus, the invisible glitter-bits
     in the electromagnetic spectrum
unabsorbed and concentrated in the ionosphere,
reflecting radiation back into space—
and, we only recently realized,  an ozone layer
on a limited-time offer,
absorbing ultra violet—Thank You very much—
without which we’d fry like fish
cakes in a skillet, and not one lima bean, lentil,
or loquat would grow, so hot,
unbeknownst to us, that the planet would lose all
its water the way Mars did early on,
before we had a snowball’s proverbial chance.
What luck. As far as it goes,
as long as it lasts. That first astrolabe carved
     from shoulder blades, gauging
our tangential interest in, and long distance relevance to
the stars, did not divulge
the scaffoldings and strategies, the dimensions at work
all about and beneath us. 
We were happy, filled in the blanks with good intentions,
our observations fashioned
largely in the dark, our lungs, working from the bottom up
as we decided we had something
to prove.  We selected a god, some gods—answers
weren’t as hard to come by
as iron and fire.  But it seemed a reasonable place to start
before the continents began
to split apart and we surfed out on the back of time’s
white and unseen scroll, before
the fellows in Athens began to formulate atomic hypothesis
and the various reified situations
of the air that would lead us eventually to the unknotted
tangles of string theory and eleven
dimensions, parallel universes and the probable impossible
      grab bag and jumble of everything.

Click to read the complete poem: ChaosTheory.pdf

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