Come in! I thought it might be you,
Hoping it would not be true,
Though hope has little purchase here—
And has not had this many a year:
There’s Fate, your old familiar owl,
(I see her, peeking through your cowl),
Free Willie’s fangs locked on your coat—
The Lie of Lies lodged in his throat.
Come in, come in! Bring out your list,
Set down that blade and rest your wrist,
I fear we have no time to dine
But let me finish up this wine—
The last, I think, that I shall drink?
(My word, does foul Fate never blink?)
There now! And I assume you bring
What James called ‘the distinguished thing’,
Though Henry’s creed on what was what
Was ‘judge all potters by their pot’
And damn the mess — his dainty knife
Could never hack the clay of life...
Excuse this rambling — terror maims
The intellect, as false hope shames
An athlete passed his punch-drunk prime...
Yes quite. You have so little time.
Free Will is slithering down your seam
And I (transfixed within this dream)
Must watch her bite a nerveless vein
On legs that shall not lift again.
So be it. Has she finished yet?
Free Will, indeed— a loathsome pet
Whose mother slept in Eden’s tree
And served young Eve as he serves me,
As you, in turn, on rattling limbs
Still serve your deathless master’s whims.
’Tis done? Then I shall rack my brains
For words: ‘a drowsy numbness pains...’
No, no; I’ll spout no stolen sweets,
(I never cared too well for Keats,
His song so rich it lacked the fire
To plumb the depths of real desire);
How’s this: ‘Though all must come to grief
And loss, I seek no false relief
In superstition’s stinking rod —
I’ll take my chance — you keep your God
Or gods — though I admired your book —
I’ll hang my hat on Housman’s hook,
A second-rater though he be,
My last thoughts are: his cherry tree,
Emily’s coach and Browning’s bride—
With Will’s dark lady by her side!
Mandalay, Mustique January 11, 2008