In Promise of a Reckoning
I write to you for I must
not as a tragic hero or a scapegoat
nor as a tribal outcast but as poets must,
as one with the burden of truth
though in your possession are truths
and versions of truths many,
that best serve modern conveniences.
You know not, in polluting multitude,
what men and gods of men are these,
hovering around us even decades after.
What mad pursuit of power they wear
beneath their cloaking unravished quietness,
wherein seasons after, sleepless,
evil goads more evil.
My people, doomed to sicken they are,
and perish all; betrothed to betrayal and victimhood
and long mocked by an ancestral fault.—
‘A crooked oath whereby a demon was hired
once and so it drew nearer, and marched
slowly on in state to overrun our lands,
all our borders, near and far!’
Spend years a troublous life and you can’t flee,
you’ll get nothing—proven!
Dreaded dreams, torched visions, torn and broken bodies,
and faces disfigured with immeasurable grief.
All but have left us withered, spinning
our fatal passion. Look, and see if
my speech is a worthless gift to you!
Here, come—‘O you with wintry flesh,
clutching your dead souls’, come;
I have this to say to you: ‘Our days
fade away like shadows decease
into sunset. And desperate now,
it wearies us, this freedom,
our hearts’ desire’
They say years take all, one’s wit included,
But what of the gunpowder,
that cleaves the sturdy blocks still
its choice long made
O bodies buried in perpetual slumber?
—these tremors of passion, these battles so dire,
great hearts thumping inside their tiny breasts,
these little princes, whose fervent will
all things devours, singing,
“We will rise! From this pale mist—
We will rise in epiphany one day—
For the day of doom has not yet come—and
whatever scant may be, we will have profit by sacrifice’’
—they have made me too a poet.
Our Beloved City
Who runs this city now?—
Is it God?—
Or God no more?
He cares not — asks not — sees not —
As the hymns flush out in death’s sight —
As does mourning for the dead —
The speech of men on the shore of evening, death —
To-day — strange to the crowd — speaks comfort no more:
“You are too soon,” they cry, “You are too late,”
Who runs this city now? —
Is it God? —
Or God, no more?