the pinnacle

by Richard Testa

To the pinnacle of truth I climb.
What, no pinnacle, no truth?
Then where do I climb?
Why so breathless?  Why exhausted?
I know I labor: labor towards
Something, somewhere, somehow.
Is it not ascent?  I know I stand
Where I can see much more
Than I saw before.
I know it was something I grasped;
I know levels I’ve passed.
No?  You say I cannot be certain?
Then why so breathless?  Why exhausted?
I’ll cease to labor: go towards
Anything, anywhere.

O graying gray!  O uncertain grayness!
What is it dims my vision so?
It is but a passing cloud, I know, but frightening.
What is frightening about uncertain journey,
About clouds, about hazy grayness?
On, shall I go on?  Is there hope?

O blackest black!  O liquid blackness!
Submerged, my eyes, my ears; I drink blackness.
Yet do I thirst for light, for light do I thirst.
Will I go on to solid nothingness?
There is a light, I know, at the pinnacle I knew.

You told me there was no pinnacle
Or that I could be certain of its uncertainty
Or some such knowable unknowingness.
But I will ascend again,
For I know I have descended.

Born in Newark, Richard D. Testa left to enter a Catholic seminary, lived for two years as a Trappist monk, then returned to teach English in the Newark schools. “The Pinnacle” appeared in the July-August 1962 issue of the locally published magazine Four Corners.

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