Madrid November 2016
Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard
Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,
a little honey, a little sun,
in obedience to Persephone’s bees.
You can’t untie a boat that was never moored,
nor hear a shadow in its furs,
nor move through thick life without fear.
For us, all that’s left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.
Deep in the transparent night they’re still humming,
at home in the dark wood on the mountain,
in the mint and lungwort and the past.
But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.
Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.
I seem to be forgetting to live a little more.
There are words I've had to save myself from, like My Lord and Blessed Mother, words I said and never meant, though I admit a part of me misses the ornamental stateliness of High Mass, that smell of incense. Heaven did exist, I discovered, but was reciprocal and momentary, like lust felt at exactly the same time— two mortals, say, on a resilient bed, making a small case for themselves. You and I became the words I'd say before I'd lay me down to sleep, and again when I'd wake—wishful words, no belief in them yet. It seemed you'd been put on earth to distract me from what was doctrinal and dry. Electricity may start things, but if they're to last I've come to understand a steady, low-voltage hum of affection must be arrived at. How else to offset the occasional slide into neglect and ill temper? I learned, in time, to let heaven go its mythy way, to never again be a supplicant of any single idea. For you and me it's here and now from here on in. Nothing can save us, nor do we wish to be saved. Let night come with its austere grandeur, ancient superstitions and fears. It can do us no harm. We'll put some music on, open the curtains, let things darken as they will
Here and Now, Stephen Dunn
Photo: Lisbon, Cais das Colunas (today)