A sailor’s epitaph.

Rest, you say, in peace,
rust away in peace!
All I ever did was rest into pieces;
I’m dead of it.

I know, I know, too late,
the clock has struck
and my mortal wisp is doomed
to eternity, slowly descending
into elemental
entropic stupor.

But even Achilles, brave Achilles,
would rather have risen and returned
as chattel than rule over
those resting in peace.

I want trouble to get out of,
love to fall into, happen to stance,
luck to stroke, good or bad,
it’s all the same to me.

If I’m doomed to rest,
let it be fitful, at least, full of
desire unquenched, fortune
unclaimed.

All these trials, these wounds,
are closer to heaven
than moldering nothing
without light or darkness,

changeless.

True death is the
timeless, the changeless,
the big zero.

The plague

Survivors of the plague, finding themselves neither destroyed nor improved, could discover no divine purpose in the pain they had suffered. ~ Barbara Tuchman

Everything falls, the old banners
Flung to pieces,
God reveals himself a jester,
Indifferent or cruel,

It makes little difference.
Popes and paupers rot
In the same slag heap,
All the rules, shattered.

Such a holy tantrum!
Such abandonment
Not seen since the days
Of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Do you pray, beseeching
God for pity,
If justice cannot be found?
Take care you don’t disturb his temper!

No pretense any longer
Of value, of one thing
Over another, your doom
Is made by a foul divine whim.

Déjà vu

I feel certain we’ve done this before,
long ago, unrecalled motes,
ancient, disregarded

These charts we use,
these chants we sing,
no bearing, no azimuth,
no cardinal point,
no way to mark stopping or going

Time is not a river, but an
ocean of boundless currents
the sun wildly spinning,
having lost its nerve,
clouds collapsed into rain,

I hear a song in Arabic,
imagine Peter singing
an invitation to the souls
of the dead, collected, divine

Time beckons, strained through
graveyards, yawning tides
of will and desire, dried up
and blown away, like wisps,
uncertain

Just so, I think of the dead
in their boxes, waxed up,
locked away, waiting for
what? A second coming, a
U-turn from oblivion?

I think of Alcibiades, of Pushkin,
of Camus among the cannibals,
lost in the finding, buried under history
and me, a sentimental fool, adrift

What dreams fall breathless
what lives winched open
for the sake of notoriety.