He is closing the door, against the city.
Another nice barricade is up;
He advances toward the crowded living room.
Several guests, now, have left, and the
Others have relaxed--he is sliding
Into a forum, or a world of people;
Standing, or talking, he is in the open,
Or between rooms with a tray of drinks;
He is answering a specific complaint,
Then he finds, while speaking, whole
Worlds of space to continue thinking,
As a host to similar voices and pleas
In another scene or composition
When, toppled among the furniture and drapes,
He argues the privilege of being alone.
He is setting himself an impossible task--
Grabbing the back of an armchair,
In flight; replying, with customary
Tact. Whole crowds are gathering
Under storm clouds in the street.
He is leaning way back, and would venture
To guess what someone is thinking--
I think I will publish
This history of thought, its reiteration
Is infinite and amusing; I am only
Sitting by the charming, affluent light
Among the friendly party of souls
To discuss an individual death--
What it was, the floating universe,
Before my life,
What it could be, the abandoned life
A couple of days past my private death,
An absence echoing in the city and field.
Again, straightening his cuffs, he must
Apologize to the guests for having fun;
He is trifling with their lives . . .
Death, is a large and serious personality,
Inscrutable, wearing a mask of stone,
A bad joke among a group of friends,
An idea unfailing, always the same,
Severe, expressionless in all weather
Like an alabaster soldier in the park,
A giant figure planted against the sun.
Death is behind all tragedy, it is plain,
Topical, changeable in form, it is with
You in a step, like a giant, in the park;
Deep in the mind it dreams of a crude
And natural summons, it is staying around.
Death is a necessity for thought, it is
Nothing at all, and growing wild.
It is not that we, uniformly crippled,
Cannot sketch the course of this story,
Or attach a terrible significance, here,
To the wind rushing in the blind alley,
Or to the black roses, sheltered, there,
In transparent vases on the windowsill,
Or painted, with consummate skill, on
A canvas, framed, hung upon the wall--
Nor that anything lies beyond the grasp
Or such a society, such happy decadence;
But that everything, lavish, intended,
Is here already, in this locality--
All the mystery, our full attendance,
The entire future of speculation.
There are spectacles lying in waste,
A virtual city, with its fated monuments,
Structures blasted out of sunlight,
Antiquity in the colored rust, in the air,
Machines that carry materials here--
Things more fantastic than the complex spirit
(What is more doubtful than this rude stone?)
Reality in question everywhere--
His doubting thoughts, passing in bald
Mimicry on the assembled faces, his
Dancing hands, requiring real participation,
Whilst he is proposing a heaven on earth.
I was singing in the yard, I had
A whole imagined time to grasp, before
Me, a terrain, a solid mystery
Behind me, I had, flatly, no origin--
First, an ecstatic cause, then a lifetime
Of beauty and distraction
In which to encounter a sham mortality.
You are a baby in such matters, I remember
Life, it springs without a premise,
A great religion lies proven in the grass.
It is controversial to be in the world,
And youth, at first attained in years,
As the summit of a first chronology,
Is permanent, now, in the mind--
Memory of Childhood . . . Doug Lazarus
Memory is close, closer than life was
In that yard; I pause, and suddenly the storm
Is upon me, in a rush--hasn’t it always been
Like this, just looking around; like now,
When we are gathered here in a scene,
Entertained, in our mutual disbelief?
I am inspired to tell
You comedy of my long privacy,
The ridiculous deaths suffered alone,
In roadside woods, in underground cities,
How I stood up, confused, or laughing,
Walked into the old living room, renewed.
It is detail the nervous man is wanting,
Lest he dwell, fatally, in a world of ideas.
Shall I jump, struck, knock down the statuettes;
Or succumb most slowly to a disease?
Will this define, at last, that circle
Of family, dead, dying, and living, that
Famous crowd of spectacular friends--
No long encountered
On apartment house stairways (I see them
Walking, on future errands, easily past);
No temperance, finally, in their references
To this unfortunate early victim,
Already while strolling in the springtime
Graveyard, so many brave survivors
In a strange reality . . .
And shall I forgo, entirely, the figure
Of myself, calmly watching it?
Isn’t this myself, the
Soul of long observation, in this hour?
How, having watching so much, could I miss
The very scene so often considered--
One is tempted to say there isn’t anything
For which I am so well-equipped,
As a hero, than to die a specific death . . .
There is great safety in this awareness,
The fertile and absurd creature of life
Abounds in gentle reasoning.
He is constrained in eternal victory,
The author of innumerable scenes,
Shattered in the act of planting his hands
Upon a disappearing face. Are you dying?
He asks. Of a paradoxical wonder?
Half the people he has set to mourning,
To anticipate a slow and terrible dawning
Of an ancient wording upon the lips,
Revelation upon revelation, mystery growing
Worse--because death cannot be imagined,
It is is dull, implacable, it lacks occasion,
It does not exist. It is wonderless, a common
Ruffian, it is does not complete what is
Incomplete, like life!, whose causes are
Absolutely gone, erased forever, laying
Elsewhere--grandly. And nature has become
A secondary thing to this ecstatic strangeness--
A picture book compared with bright language.
I remember life--it is a plural heaven.
Dance of the Survivors . . . . . . Doug Lazarus
Why do I, as I say, know exactly what
I am talking about?
And why do you, who are in the room?
We had an idea of life, it was a plural heaven,
Because the question was not only mine.
Very few can die, and create a vacuum;
Few can escape, be the subject of important
Telegrams, cause a shuddering void
At a dinner party, making you think
They long to live a few days further,
Leaving things undone
That never will be done--
A trellis in the yard, a book upon the table,
Left to the wind and wandering children,
A point in a pleasurable thesis unpinned.
For most begin, long years before, asking
For help in a torture of the self,
A self uncreated without that consent,
And fade away through multiple arrangements,
Complicity, and betrayal, and are
Literally forgotten, wasted in the mind.
Rare is the man growing gladly weaker
In an armchair in the sun, or the warrior
Struck down on a foreign border, with
A dispatch behind him, the globe going
On past his thunderous fall on the forest
Floor . . . and in the city, I know,
They are lingering, in the hospitals.
Solitude is what is finally a lie,
Crippling the neighbors, the guests
At the banquet, those tamely and rationally
Talking of life. We have no speech
For the grim dialogue, but can only supply
A mockery of looks, outrage and denial,
For the desperate man of silent years
To take, indecorously, to the end,
Crashing or slipping,
The world without entirely rejected and
Defeated in his aging subjectivity.
And by then, the commodious thinking
Goes, who needs them--or anyone--anyway?
A storm will come up, from cursed heavens,
And carry me away. Who can say I cared?
How many have died like that! Many times?
(This is the beginning of our hilarity.)
How many rank suicides are among us?
You see them, ashamed, coming back in the light.
Escorting them to the door, you hear
Their ambiguous footfall upon the stair--
Who was that man? Ah, here he is again!
He is in the middle of a conversation,
Several people are expected to arrive;
He is bowed in thought, staring at the carpet,
Automatically charmed; he is rising to
A pitch of feverish attention; he keeps
Learning, again, the first thing learned
In a controversial presence. There is
Nowhere for the wind to fly, mystery
Among the roses, sheltered by the window;
You have that, don’t you, in your eyes?