Art of Dying
of '50 and '54
(Cesare Pavese, Herbert Leeds)
Even to say something went wrong is wrong:
you merely took control of your own death;
and what could be more futile than trying
to pin it down on some one thing, some
reason, a woman lost, some form
of failure, imagination dead.
You had had enough of the same
and somehow that absence grew
large enough to swallow you.
Not the woman with the hoarse voice.
Not the mayhem and slaughter
on the bridge at Remagen
Not the hills leveled.
Not the rows of hazel cut down.
The rye fields gone.
1972. The Seine. A bleached
summer afternoon. Paul Celan
jumped in and Jean Vigo did not do
himself in exactly but hurried
his tubercilli by shooting
L’Atalante on a barge in the hard
November rain. It must be
an absence at the heart, a hole that grows
until it swallows you up
until you are no more: it’s then,
when you’re already done in,
that you do yourself in:
every breakdown is a catastrophe
that has already occurred—
a burst of anger
is never sudden, the thing
most feared in secret
From Realm of Unknowing, first published in Raritan