when I no longer
feel it breathing down
my neck it's just around
the corner (hi neighbor)
when I no longer
I'm at a double wake
in Springfield, for a childhood
friend and his father
who died years ago. I join
my aunt in the queue of mourners
and walk into a brown study,
a sepia room with books
and magazines. The father's
in a coffin; he looks exhumed,
the worse for wear. But where
my friend's remains should be
there's just the empty base
of an urn. Where are his ashes?
His mother hands me
a paper cup with pills:
and AZT. "Henry
wanted you to have these,"
Your dying was a difficult enterprise.
First, petty things took up your energies,
The small but clustering duties of the sick,
Irritant as the cough’ s dry rhetoric.
Those hours of waiting for pills, shot, X-ray
Or test (while you read novels two a day)
Already with a kind of clumsy stealth
Distanced you from the habits of your health.
In hope still, courteous still, but tired and thin,
How difficult it is to say goodbye
to scourge. For years we were obsessed with you,
your complex glycoproteins and your sly,
haphazard reproduction, your restraint
in your resistance, how you bathed so slight
yet fierce in our most intimate secretions.
We will remember you for generations;
electron micrographs of you seem quaint
already, in the moment of our victory.
How difficult it is to claim one’ s right
to living honestly. The honesty
you taught was nothing quite as true
Over the rim of the glass
Containing a good martini with a twist
I eye her bosom and consider a pass,
Certain we’ d not be missed
In the general hubbub.
Her lips, which I forgot to say, are superb,
Never stop babbling once (Aye, there’ s the rub)
But who would want to curb
I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river’ s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.
O Grammar rules, O now your virtues show;
So children still read you with awful eyes,
As my young Dove may in your precepts wise
Her grant to me, by her own virtue know.
For late with heart most high, with eyes most low,
I crav’ d the thing which ever she denies:
She lightning Love, displaying Venus’ skies,
Least once should not be heard, twice said, No, No.
Sing then my Muse, now Io Pæan sing,
Blood on the night soil man en route to the country prison
Blood on the sullen chair, the one that holds you with its pleasure
Blood inside the quartz, the beauty watch, the eye of the guard
Blood on the slope of names & the tattoos hidden
Blood on the Virgin, behind the veils,
Behind — in the moon angel's gold oracle hair
What blood is this, is it the blood of the worker rat?
Is it the blood of the clone governor, the city maid?
Why does it course in s's & z's?