Bathed in moonlight, beyond the midnight hour,
The Weald outside the window wet with dew,
Sage Tennyson died at peace, his bed a bower
Of loved ones’ tears, the truths that Shakespeare knew
In a volume in his hand. Soon, folk would queue
At Poets’ Corner to praise his symbolled life:
Art, success, a good death, a grateful wife.
In a shop door stinking with booze and faecesGeorge the drinker expires in his own filth;
That day, his face a mess of sweating creases,
He sought quietus from a priest, a tilth
Of blessing to flee him to his death; his health
Reneged, alone, in pain, with anguished eyes,
He stiffened in a foetus-like demise.
Death teaches truths which shuffle-footed manBegs not to hear. The Poet’s great-aged passing
In painless sleep, innocuous as a fan
Of breath, has brazened thoughtless folk now lazing
In glib autonomy, sans suffering,
To hold that health and years trump mourning bells
And death’s a dim if puzzling something else.
But man’s a creature of unstable clayWho, laughing, crying, is a spawn of God;
His glands and ducts are destined to decay
And that’s a fearful tale of pain and blood;
Sarcoma’d man, exhaling on the rood,
Must quarry in his own heart’s stony ground
To find the balm of Being in his wound.
And so, longevity and glam fulfilmentAre rags aflap in the bawling winds of time
And make for men, as creatures all, concealment
From flesh’s task – to suffer in a slime
Of agony; St Paul says, Adam’s crime
Effaced, and gravid made in woe, creation
Groans in child-pang like a woman in dilation.
From plankton to the snarling lion packThings feed on things, razoring flesh from bone
And cold to screams. Big-brained, atop that stack
Of pain, amassing man, uneasy grown,
Surveys the glebe self-knowledge makes his own –
A universe in suffering aware
Of something hidden and its forceful stare.
In flesh-deep wounds your blood which wells is Christ’s:Whose Body, twisted, leaking, spittle-splayed,
Was racked upon a Cross; nailed at the wrists
He hung like us, but our first fruits displayed
For, Rising, showed that suffering, if prayed,
A shop door swings unhung with any wreath,
And proves the way to truth and life, in death.
So George the drinker, sundered in his waste,Found truths unguessed at by the coddled sage;
That being’s crown is pain, and life disgraced
A prize more fruitful than a rich man’s wage;
For disabused of creatures’ bleak-eyed rage
Through death he grasped a Hand which, bruised and flayed,
The price of his eternal joy had paid.
===============© September 2014