||Against Odds Against
There’s nothing you can do, After Life,
to stanch the passage of time, or the wrack
it leaves behind, a wound for which all
“tourniquets” are useless.
Everyone is forced to navigate
the river of the dead alone. It’s futile
to excise a good three-hundred pound
prize steer in offering
(from the herd rented at $10 a head even when they just
grazed while Hawks was dying for Rain Valley
to stop living up to its name so he could get Red
River shot before the cast mutinied)
to Pluto--who in this inferno restrains
tri-sexual Geryon on a leash of tricyclics...,
or an empire builder like Tom Dunson,
Matthew Garth’s foster father.
There is no getting the better of a beast
who when you yell “go fuck yourself”
just asks for its hands to be unclasped;
and never a way to escape
the brackish waters of backed-up Cocytos,
the infamous Danae and the all-too-famous
Sisyphus: thanks to one concise, timely essay
by twenty-nine year old
Albert Camus. Maybe pushing a boulder
uphill forever isn’t quite as onerous when the wind
is your father? There are more things on earth
than making the best of the worst.
Wage war on war? Why not?
So long as everything comes to nothing.
And the wave-roar grows hoarse
from breaking the news
to the deluded multitudes who go on
“wishing and hoping and hoping
and dreaming...” for Miracle
Incorporated to rid
the sirocco of the germs it strews
cruelly, indifferently, on everyone
open to the wind, from tower-hidden kings
to ragged beggars.
All that you have loved best will fall away.
The land you worked. The house you built.
The wife you loved. (The immense tenderness
that grew between you.)
Alone, the invidious cypress will cast shadows
on your harvest’s golden glow; then in no time at all
it will be time to set the field on fire:
so the grain can die.
Why are time’s prisoners in their meager
tenure on earth so often inured to the giant
strides that occurred in the quality of life
while they lived.
Take heart that someone like yourself only--
(dare I say it?)--more...evolved...will depart the site
where your physical body decomposes
underneath the humped
mound, determined to alter future legislation
as regards cremation. He knows what wines
are ready to be opened and where they are within
cellar and, jangling the keys, descends.
Rest content. You were an experiment.
To what end “man is only beginning”
to glean a direction.
After Horace (Odes, 11.14)
From Provoked in Venice, first published in Arion