Wednesday, September 13, 2023

"No it was no dream of coming death" by Louis Zukofsky


No it was no dream of coming death,
Those you love will live long.
If light hurried my dream, I saw none:
Stepped from my bed and to the sill,
From a window looked down
On the river I knew set forth
To rise toward me—full after rain.
People watched, crowded the banks, thought
As with old words to a river:
(Whose waters seemed unwillingly
to glide like friends who linger while
they sever.) Soon, as expected!

A coffin launched like a ship’s hull
Sped as from a curtain afire
Draped to the keystone of an arch
And—as at a burial at sea—
Sank. The displaced water rose,
Made the heart sound the coffin’s grave,
Woke under the stream and in me
A set of furtive bells, muted
And jangling by rote “What does this say?
What loss will make the world different?
Are they gathered to further war?
What sorrow do you fear?
Ask, will you, is it here
Distrust is cast off, all
Cowardice dies. Eyes, looking out,
Without the good of intellect,
Rouse as you are used to:
It is the bad fallen away,
And the sorrow in the good.
You saw now for your book, Anew.”

Source of the text – Louis Zukofsky, Complete Short Poetry. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991, pages 85-86.

TJB: Ars objectiva. In short lines & tight syntax, the poem is a burial at sea, with vatic speech from the coffin-swallowing sea: the sorrow in the good.

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