Monday, 4 June 2012

Hearing Thunder

A purple, fleshy sinew of lightning snarls
In the east. A thunderclap roars, disturbing
Business and dreams of longevity as
   Once more the old gods lunge after power,

Arousing our subservience to the
Hatred in us. Who would not shiver at that
Moment’s knowledge, when flesh is made witness to
   Its sagging grip and every head

Which dares think has to struggle aghast with two
Centuries of freewill? The Chancelleries chatter
With telexed diplomacy, but the gods
   Of iron, the appetitive gods,

Are caressing delighted human flesh,
Urging a passion of sprinkled blood, heads
As trophies and privileges in country
   Dachas. On wintry nights behind

The neon defences of a febrile
City I consider my textbooks of
Human progress; from big-bellied Socrates,
   Snatching the ethical from the hands of

State or tribal cults, to a vendor, loud on
A street corner, dealing more fairly more
Of the time, licensed by the relevant
   City Department. In the Marches

War is endemic but restaurants and bars
Prefer news of exciting marital
Strife. Yet despite the fury, the clash of
   Fast talkers, blithely pocketing

Whatever they can, we discover daily –
Half-buried by peremptory orders,
Scorned by harsh words and flashlights – paradigms
   Of the Good Life – even an apology

On the subway can help. Each morning on
Waking I think, “Innocent men will go
To their deaths, the culpable will live out their lives
   In a trashy splendour.” But the

Brilliant, scouring morning light, which has
Outlived pogroms and showcase trials, will not
Bow down before historical facts: it
   Amazes with its optimism.

© January 1982

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