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
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.