Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Once I am sure there's nothing going on I step inside, letting the door thud shut. Another church: matting, seats, and stone, And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff Up at the holy end; the small neat organ; And a tense, musty, unignorable silence, Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,
Move forward, run my hand around the font. From where I stand, the roof looks almost new- Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don't. Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce "Here endeth" much more loudly than I'd meant. The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence, Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.
Yet stop I did: in fact I often do, And always end much at a loss like this, Wondering what to look for; wondering, too, When churches fall completely out of use What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep A few cathedrals chronically on show, Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases, And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep. Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?
Or, after dark, will dubious women come To make their children touch a particular stone; Pick simples for a cancer; or on some Advised night see walking a dead one? Power of some sort or other will go on In games, in riddles, seemingly at random; But superstition, like belief, must die, And what remains when disbelief has gone? Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,
A shape less recognizable each week, A purpose more obscure. I wonder who Will be the last, the very last, to seek This place for what it was; one of the crew That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were? Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique, Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh? Or will he be my representative,
Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt So long and equably what since is found Only in separation - marriage, and birth, And death, and thoughts of these - for whom was built This special shell? For, though I've no idea What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth, It pleases me to stand in silence here;
A serious house on serious earth it is, In whose blent air all our compulsions meet, Are recognised, and robed as destinies. And that much never can be obsolete, Since someone will forever be surprising A hunger in himself to be more serious, And gravitating with it to this ground, Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in, If only that so many dead lie round.
I am resentful. if heaven exists, I will be sad. what hell to spend eternities in heaven, what hell to spend eternities conscious, waiting for things to happen, waiting for things to end in a never ending place. I fear where light is eternal; I fear it will consume me like fires ravage the dry and the brittle.
I told you I loved him; I love his skin, the weight of his body - supple bronze - and his eyes in the sun. You love someone else from long ago. I say that I no longer love truly, that I love as an animal loves, and you nod quietly at my irreverence and liberty. I no longer own an innocent heart. Why then, like Prometheus, am I chained by my guilt at having glimpsed fire?
Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a time when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter today? And who of Huitzilopochtli? In one year - and it is no more than five hundred years ago - 50,000 youths and maidens were slain in sacrifice to him. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is only by some vagrant savage in the depths of the Mexican forest.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 73
valediction (your name a lunar petal) (6/4/2013)
Your name a lunar petal, candid and alone, reflecting still the light of phantom suns that clings like permafrost. Memories lay like dormant seeds forgotten by cold rain. Alone, I walk the futile streets, and wait for the fateful flower to blossom once again. I call out your name to the empty streets, and am ignored.
You left without goodbye, I didn't know Until I saw your figure cross my street; Behind you, walking furtively, your shadow. The nights are lonely, full of smoke and heat. You left, and now I have but solitude.
Later, by some accident, we meet, and you say nothing; your eyes gaze into mine, then look away before they have a chance to say hello, or mutter some inaudible farewell.