Aubade

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

The Archpoet's Confession

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

 

The Double

The ancient Egyptians believed that the Double, the ka, was a man’s exact counterpart, having his same walk and his same dress. Not only men, but gods and beasts, stones and trees, chairs and knives had their ka, which was invisible except to certain priests who could see the Doubles of the gods and were granted by them a knowledge of things past and things to come.
— From "The Double" - Jorge Luis Borges

(via)

The Seven

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.

"I Died for Beauty"

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

"The Far Field"

"-- Or to lie naked in sand,
In the silted shallows of a slow river,
Fingering a shell,
Thinking:
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,
Believing:
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