On the Afterlife (You know, the thing that comes after the Beforedeath)

Oh there’ll be no forty maidens,
Cloud-clad angels, sainted bliss:
All your Luthers and Bin Ladens
Are just food for worms—or fish;
So relax my anxious faithful
And pursue some truer myth:
“Afterlife”—the thought’s a tangle!
Life always comes before death.

Advertisements

The Wall in Iraq

A scene, called “Peace”, from the so-called “Standard of Ur”.

[My first blog post, back in 2009, was a far different version of the poem below. I removed it from the site when I started blogging again in 2013, and had no plans to revisit it. But for some reason, more than six years after I first wrote it, I have started writing it again—and have made it much shorter if not much else.
          So, gentle poem, welcome back to the internet. (And great Achilles will be sent once more to Troy!)]

The deepest past’s mere meters down,
a lot of dust no doubt to those
who made it, but even ground
this trodden—boots, bare soles—
is air to a bomb.
A wall that rose,
and was buried in time,

rises again, its surface glass-
like rock, blue as movie-star-eyes.
The weathered ones whose hands glossed
the standing stone, like skies
over Ur long watched
for sterile signs
of things to pass, have passed.

Colours, populous in nature,
do not penetrate the iris,
but glass can well invade her
eyes, two dirt-red pebbles
smoothed by salt water.
Something happens
with life, some stray contour

around the side of natural
beauty shakes its skin and crumbles
into want. A thimbleful
of chancing chemicals
falls in a careful
mess, carelessness
diluting the dead-still,

slow-dying purity of rock.
The girl picks lapis lazuli
from her eyes. Fired up and dropped,
the shrapnel of history
shattered her sight. Stop.
Do not worry.
Even walls cannot last.

The Death of Virgil

[A meagre offering in honour of the birth of Publius Vergilius Maro on this day in 70 BCE.]

Phoebus descends on Megara, beats down
the crops with his coming, anxious so
to see the poet shaping in song
the trip from Troy to Rome;
but the healer in his eagerness falls
in weight too great even for this
mortal of immortal fame, who pales
beneath the gaze of needy gods.

Now from Andes to the Andes Virgil’s dancing
lines, lightfoot and firebright,
sound, but no more the slow voice speaks
fleet Latin, spells the mouth out incantation;
still, folding its bones, from Bangalore, from Beijing
to Brindisi, the sea holds benthic
peacefulness, and all is quietly
full of the sound of surrounding water: heavy
in its depth and gravity, light as light
saturating sky, inseparable, like wind
in air, or woven in sea like the smoky foam
wringing the waving wash; still life
beats on, numbers’ and nature’s forces soaking
the sponge of brain, of skin, of eye, of ear, of lung,
of gill; and still from distant rooftops
twists the smoke—welcome
or war. See them!—
By campfire, farm–fire, hill–fire, men–
at–arms, at ploughs, at pipes,
warming to song.

Psychebabble (or, When I die I want to be made into a nice chest of drawers; or, There’s no man speaks better Latin)

Nothing is speaking to human consciousness:
not the gusts of Olympus blustering our brains;
not the gush of the Ganges bubbling our bodies;
not the snowflake stars dusting the black, or the silences between them, no—
we are just talking to ourselves—

Mother: What, Dan?
Me: Nuthin, I was just talkin to meself.
Mother: Well shur ya couldn’t talk to a nicer fella.
(Well, mothers are supposed to love their sons,
and I suppose most of them do.)

No—we are just talking to ourselves,
our brains rustling: crown of thoughts
a crown of leaves, branches spreading in our heads,
rooting down in the dumb limbs,
spine-trunk, root-nerve, sap-blood, leaves
greening and browning and new buds blooming,
fruits and seeds,
breezes the branches make themselves
by growing (a flung violin makes music too),
and “Timmmmburrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”!—

Ah the mouths we all are
Tongue-soft and tooth-hard
Spit-shined and enamelled
But red raw and rotten
Suckling and snapping
Laughing and grinding
Talking to ourselves
(Fill it and fill it—
I’m teaching myself Latin!
But there’s always a hole in the middle)

words

              words
echo with the ghosts
of almost wholly-lost
              worlds
                            but for them
                            nothing remains
                                         at all—nothing
              words hold
though only airily
              the fragile bones
of yesterday
                           loose as breath
                           but holding yet
                                          and tightening