SNOW FALLING THROUGH SMOKE
Snow was falling through the smoke. The light
Was the same as the beef tea I set by the bed.
Was I a relative? A servant? Hard to say,
Since everything resigned itself to duty.
When I was a child and called away
From reading to be useful in the house,
I saw what must become of me. And now
I felt myself abandoned by my name,
To watch that yellow face that wouldn’t die:
This year, next year, then my turn
To wear the grave-clothes in the attic bed.
I knew that I must leave the room, and when I did
I heard the snow, as if I were not there,
But was an ear, an afterwards, a nobody,
Perpetual and incomplete among the smoke
That hung along the ridges of the roofs,
A flake of icy rage among the millions
To whom the blizzard was the sum of things.
For hours I stood at the head of the stairs
Beneath the dim deadlight, with nothing in mind
Except that I must rouse myself or else be lost.
And yet I could not see my way. The house itself
Seemed far off then, forgotten, like something
Already surrendered. I say it was madness
That came up around me, as water will coil
Through the decks of a ship. Too late
For these reflections, I remarked, and then was glad
That there was no one present who might hear,
And, with an effort, gathering myself at last,
Pretending not to listen to the snow,
Went back into the bedroom, since I must.
THE ANGEL: REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY
The poor mad angel boy of twelve
With the unblinking gold-green stare
And the frightening permanent smile
That should be love but cannot be
Is brought by his mother to join the crowd.
Terrible as an army with banners
The girl cadets strike dulcimers
And the sounding brass of the Legion marches
Crisply on from “Blaydon Races”
Via “Who’s Your Lady Friend?” and finally
Arrives at “Tipperary” as they pass
Between the gates and down the cypress-glade
Towards the obelisk. There is a crowd in black
Among the graves, as if the resurrection
Is concluding just in time. Veterans, widows,
Idlers, dogs and babies. Is this everyone?
Last Post. The silence. Then we undertake
“Abide with Me” but lack the heart for it
Here in the vast incendiary light of the world,
The air still charged with fireworks,
Sun without pity, sky without end.
There is no home or resting place.
The broken ground will have us all
Indifferently back. And here he is,
Imprisoned in his element,
The angel boy who neither lives nor dies.
Where can his mother be? He waits among us,
Innocent and terrible. His smile is death,
And like the world his green-gold gaze
That should be love sees nothing everywhere.