The Stone Man
Half-recognized kingdom of the dead:
A deeper landscape lit by distant
Flashing from their journey.
In the prison pen
Listless he eyes the palisades
And sentries in the glare;
’Tis barren as a pelican-beach—
But his world is ended there.
Nothing to do; and vacant hands
Bring on the idiot-pain;
He tries to think—to recollect,
But the blur is on his brain.
Around him swarm the plaining ghosts
Like those on Virgil’s shore—
A wilderness of faces dim,
And pale ones gashed and hoar.
A smiting sun. No shed, no tree;
He totters to his lair—
A den that sick hands dug in earth
Ere famine wasted there,
Or, dropping in his place, he swoons,
Walled in by throngs that press,
Till forth from the throngs they bear him dead—
Dead in his meagerness.
“But When I Became a Man…”
Now, being grown, I put away
The childish things that are no child’s;
Such as the thought that what men say
Can shrive them against natal wilds,
Such as the fear that others know
The secret hidden from my hope,
Such as the terror lest men grow,
In age, remaining dwarfs in scope.
Distinguished behind fogs of glass,
Self-laurelled for a state attained,
I sit and think the hours that pass
Admire the way my glass is stained.
And all the time those hours’ eyes,
Unused to man’s small shifts of sort
Not noticing my mind and size,
Name me a child in their report.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Delicate omens traced on air
To the lone bard true witness bare;
Birds with auguries on their wings
Chanted undecieving things
Him to beckon, him to warn;
Well might then the poet scorn
To learn of scribe or corier
Hints writ in vaster character;
And on his mind, at dawn of day,
Soft shadows of the evening lay
For the prevision is allied
Until the thing so signified;
Or say, the foresight that awaits
Is the same Genius that creates.
William Carlos Williams
I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a
vulture wheeling high up in heaven,
And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer,
its orbit narrowing,
I understood then
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and
heard the flight feathers
Whistle above me and make their circle and come
. . . how beautiful he looked, gliding down
On those great sails; how beautiful he looked,
veering away in the sea-light
over the precipice. I tell you solemnly
That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be
eaten by that beak and
become part of him, to share those wings and
those eyes –
What a sublime end of one’s body, what an ensky-
ment; what a life after death.
Undesirable you may have been, untouchable
you were not. Not forgotten
or passed over at the proper time.
As estimated, you died. Things marched,
sufficient, to that end.
Just so much Zyklon and leather, patented
terror, so many routine cries.
(I have made
an elegy for myself it
September fattens on vines. Roses
flake from the wall. The smoke
of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.
This is plenty. This is more than enough.
Blow now against the cold your thin
Ephemeral breath. Evoke the ghost
Of the pale flame that pants within.
This is yourself. This phantom, lost
On air, this filigree in frost,
Is all of warmth and brawn that hold
At bay the interstellar cold.
Trace in the braided wrist the tick
Of tunneling blood. This quiver, brief
As the wind’s tread along the leaf,
This rhythm feebler than the flick
Of cricket’s wing, no less sustains
The thrust of chaos blindly hurled
Against the frail tide of the veins–
The weight of crumbling world on world.
Breathe hard against the icy wind
Once more. Blow forth against the bright
Brave ghost of flame, a javelinned
Defiance to the crowding night.
Then get you in–to bed– forget,
If so you can, how pulse and breath
(A moment yet . . . a moment yet . . .)
Beat back the seismic tides of death.