POEM: Last Stand (For M.)

Your perfume’s traces hang like jetstreams
In the darkening air
Your happy disposition
After-burns like a setting sun
Gilding the cooling gloom

But nothing else is shining now

Life’s descent into darkness and slowness
Coagulates around my feebly struggling will
Glueing the weight of winter
To my last-ditch fight for light
Smudging my despair and doom onto the unwhite walls
Already stained with failure
and the stale yellow breath of an habitual late-morning dreamer

the protracted barely-rhythmic sleep
a heartbeat away from coma
The death slumber we retreat into
When fugitives from life

I reach
And reach
And reach

But no-thing ever comes closer

Not the fluent self-annihilating exercise
of skill
Whose clear blue swells
I imagined I’d be surfing daily

Mercifully far from the
thick muddy swamp
Life’s uncreative dolts
were doomed to flounder about in

Nor the fame and riches I was assured
they would bestow
Diligence’s dubious shadows

And least of all
The supreme ecstatic moment
in which the mind is supposed
to cast off the surly bonds of earth
and soar
enveloped in the all-uplifting surge of
The Sublime

The life-justifying
world-redeeming epiphanic instant
During which we were supposed to be transported
soul spirit mind
stripped of all physical impediment and necessity
into the psychic stratosphere
where the angels frolic

Instead we crowd together
On Eliots’s other shore

United in our bestial pursuit
Of the mollifying drug of comfort
Devoted as pilgrims
to the Holy Grail of the Warm Bath

I can not
My spirit is depleted

I need spiritual succour now
as never before

The pure soul-sustaining elixir of meaning.

What is meaning to a living being? Light? Air?

And fuck the body-sustaining fix
of the next meal
Or the temporary reprieve
of the cheque for the outstanding debit order

Isn’t there a single word
somewhere in this unruly
forest of Faustian symbols
that I have nurtured

A single sentence

In which a moment glimpsed and felt
Is perfectly named and held

A single Ray of light
That can ignite a spark of hope
A single breath of air
That can inflame an ember of meaning

In this bleak un life?

Come out light
From under the bushel

I need you now.

“And still, and still, you have not written the poem.”

Terrible lines. Terrible.
More damning and awful
by far
than anything the imagineers of Armageddon
could contrive.

A brightly-lit car dashes across the dark frame of my window
You in your Playa surely
Jauntily assaulting the bouldered terrain
with your customary verve and confidence

My heart leaps

Then crumples:
Just a neighbour

Just my aching heart
Bending my ageing eye
to see the caress it craves


~ by Raymond Oberholzer on March 27, 2007.

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