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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Where Atlas Waits

I cannot give you wisdom,
nor hope at all

       except to say if the soul has weight of its own,
then it must be greater than the shell of this world;
greater than the sufferance
Atlas had to bear on mighty shoulders;
for when death cracks the body open
something loosens to places no human maps show,
something goes from inside us;
we are banished --

and with the passing of each individual
an entire universe vanishes forever, no encore:

and we who blast the earth
shall blast it only once more,
to lie silently on our backs,
in holes the living claw;
while the world and its hacks in time ignore
the unique things
we once must have been,
with names, and families, and remembered childhoods,

with fear of perdition; sins and moods
and desires and loves and hopes and ambitions;

all deemed as ashes, and dust when laid in the dirt;
the speed of life's amnesia
so much quicker than the dying; or the living,
with only love doing the trying
to raise the dead from their banality,
that commonplace end
where black and white, skin and kin
are indistinguishable from each other,

stripped of individual identity;
just composite chemicals broken down
back into the mound
to become twinned with the earth,
lost inside the muddied mouth
that swallows bodies
now fallow, and hollow and no longer growing;
for the lifeless don't sleep
entwined in this special handmade quilt,
you cannot mistake them for dreaming in the dark silt
when they escape the bail of breathing,
the body gives way
with the shift of the soul,
and the great weight slips off its coat,
and the memories in our muscles and genes dip
into a darkness with no second morning,
its humanity absorbed
into this machine of nature
that shreds out meat, gristle and grind;
but what of the mind?

for now you'll want that moral courage of a kind
poets and writers are meant to give

       for this vulnerable flesh and blood,
with so much potential to do good;
vast, implacable, insatiable for hope above all things true;
but how can I lie to you?
what can I give to you on these pages
when we refuse to live and let live?
when we kill simply because we have the will,

what can I tell you -- you who owns the world?
I cannot give wisdom or hope at all

       to those who forget they were once
boys and girls who simply missed their mothers,

and feared their fathers,
       and that those we murdered
had fresh faces once, too,
eyes filled with the horizon
that rises in you, too,
young and unbent
running with the undercurrent of youth
to take part in this great event;

Oh, what can I tell you, then?
except that the earth you vie for

       will fill the sockets of your eyes
just as you poke out those
who look and see different than you;
what can I say
about nature's revenge
but append a splash of divinity or two
to make the death of innocence inconsumable to you?
I truly don't know,
for I am not wise, nor hopeful, I've said:
for I am the same animal
       like you, the same human who cries
as the child who calls for his mother after dark;
and who will one day lie at peace with the dead,
I am you; just stripped back, but what to say
       to those who don't know this?
to those who fail to devise
that if we gave life instead,
we'd realise how hard it is to take it;
be a chicken and nurture the egg
and see how gently you'd break it;

until then there is nothing I can give you,
until you forgive yourself

       for all the mistakes that made you;
to appreciate life is like love: rather than kill,
when you're ready to live for it,
it will live in you;
so how can I tell you to cope?
except to say what it brings:
unless you nurture wisdom and hope
they will die without you
;

and that strong men use religion as a refuge,
not as a weapon for their sins
,

clever, pithy, but useless things I've learnt
are all I can give you;
weaker than the words forged
an aeon ago; to still tie our will
to bury our innocence under our hate,
one unrepentant to the other's unspent grace;
and emptied of life's worth we quickly forget our fate:
for all living things are reduced

       to the same weight below the earth,
for each the same state, where Atlas waits.

____________
Atlas was the Greek Titan condemned by Zeus to hold the celestial spheres on his shoulders.

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