Tuesday, April 29, 2014

NPM: End of the line

Ansel Adams

It's April 29, which means National Poetry Month 2014 is about winding down, and this is the penultimate NPM post. Thanks for coming along; it's been fun as usual, and it was refreshing to have my nose in so many poetry books throughout the month. But I'm thinking this might be the last year I do this.

There's a pretty good chance I'll still observe NPM in one way or another. Maybe I'll post just a few carefully selected poems, but really put them under the microscope. Maybe I'll post some of my own poetry (it could happen). But in any case, I think it may be best that I quit the "choose and post a poem (or two, or three) every day for a month" game while it's still enjoyable, and before it becomes a chore.

Anyway: three poems about the end.

When You Are Old
William Butler Years (1865 – 1939)

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Leçons de Ténèbres
Clive James (1939 – )

But are they lessons, all these things I learn
Through being so far gone in my decline?
The wages of experience I earn
Would service well a younger life than mine.
I should have been more kind. It is my fate
To find this out, but find it out too late.

The mirror holds the ruins of my face
Roughly together, thus reminding me
I should have played it straight in every case,
Not just when forced to. Far too casually
I broke faith when it suited me, and here
I am alone, and now the end is near.

All my life I put my labour first.
I made my mark, but left no time between
The things achieved, so, at my heedless worst,
With no life, there was nothing I could mean.
But now I have slowed down. I breathe the air
As if there were not much more of it there

And write these poems, which are funeral songs
That have been taught to me by vanished time:
Not only to enumerate my wrongs
But to pay homage to the late sublime
That comes with seeing how the years have brought
A fitting end, if not the one I sought.

Becoming a Book
Howard Schwartz (1945 – )

        "When writers die they become books, which is, after
         all, not too bad an incarnation."
                                           ——Jorge Luis Borges

                                     for Ben Furnish

All these years,
without knowing it,
I've been preparing for my rebirth
as a book.

Each day
I try to condense
light and darkness
into one more page.

At night
I count the pages left
before it's time
to come back.

Now that my destiny is known,
we need not say goodbye.
I'll be there guarding you
from a shelf.

1 comment:

  1. I've contemplated putting up some of my own poetry for NPM before. It's a disturbing thought.