I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
"Aubade" - Philip Larken
Let the wise man prudently
seek some kind of stasis,
on a rock foundation build
his enduring basis.
Foolishly I let life slip
like a running river,
underneath the self-same skies
firmly settled never.
Like a ship without a crew
driven on the ocean,
like a straggling bird in air
making errant motion.
Chains will never held me down,
nor a key confine,
I seek people with a twist
similar to mine.
From "The Archpoet's Confession" - Anonymous (c. 1165), transl. by Phillip Holland
They are 7 in number, just 7
in the terrible depths they are 7
Bow down, in the sky they are 7
In the terrible depths, the dark houses
They swell, they grow tall
They are neither female nor male
They are a silence heavy with seastorms
They bear off no women their loins are empty of children
They are strangers to pity, compassion is far from them
They are deaf to men's prayers, entreaties can't reach them
They are horses that grow to great size that feed on mountains
They are the enemies of our friends
They feed on the gods
They tear up the highway they spread out over the roads
They are the faces of evil they are the faces of evil
They are 7 they are 7 they are 7 times 7
In the name of Heaven let them be torn from our sight
In the name of the Earth let them be torn from our sight.
"The Seven" - Anonymous (Akkadia, c. 2000 B.C.), trans. by Jerome Rothenberg.
What can be said
except--I want to lie with you
for a long time, skull-
to-skull, my sugar bridegroom.
Our hands are just bones now;
our jewelry has all dropped off!
And mi ropa de novia--
nothing but soured satin, brown-edged
lace. Our colonial aspirations!
Your grin is so fixed, calavera.
It is one of the things I admire
most about you
in my contemplating-eternity mode,
or when one bony finger (yours?
mine?) articulates a languid circle
in the shallows just below
my pelvic hollow.
I Died for Beauty (Dia de los Muertos) - Gail Wronsky
"-- Or to lie naked in sand,
In the silted shallows of a slow river,
Fingering a shell,
Once I was something like this, mindless,
Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log,
I'll return again,
As a snake or a raucous bird,
Or, with luck, as a lion.
I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself,
The sprawl of the wave,
The on-coming water."
From "The Far Field" by Theodore Roethke