Theory of Everything

by Mary Buchinger


I walk the shadow
of the railing   it is straight
and keeps me close

to the river   though it
will move as the earth
turns through the day

it is a steady shadow
I can walk on   to ponder
the emptiness

from which everything
comes and to which all
returns   Gogol wrote

himself into a place
of incompatibility with
the immorality of the world

to be good   he reasoned   was
to be gone   his own family
owned dead souls   he burned

the second half of his book
where he’d imagined a purified
redeemed rogue Chichikov

Gogol quit eating and died
His Overcoat remains   and I
want a theory of everything

a theory that begins
in one place and connects
to another like this river

beside me that divides cities
even as it unites and sustains
a self-evident truth

something I can show
my mother   for her
to see how she Gogols me

I want to say that love
of this cannot abide
love of that   I look up

and see the lit two-thirds
of the worm moon   its faint
see-through reflected light

holds steady in the cold spring
sky with cities on its banks
yellow sculls scour the river

MARY BUCHINGER is the author of three collections of poetry:  e i n f ü h l u n g/in feeling (2018), Aerialist (2015) and Roomful of Sparrows (2008). She is President of the New England Poetry Club and Professor of English and Communication Studies at MCPHS University in Boston. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Diagram, Gargoyle, Nimrod, PANK, Salamander, Slice Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere; her website is

Photo: “Shadows” by Sam Cox