The Graveyard Watch parts 4-6 (2011)

At Four O’Clock

I

This is not that night

Which follows the day

And is livened by crickets

And the calling of babes

And the swearing of parents awake

In bleary tenderness.

 

This is not that night we passed away

Some winter past

In contemplation of the heavens as they are arrayed

In the curve of your neck

And the fit of your fingers  in mine.

There were fireworks in the sky, then

And angels in our eyes.

 

This is not the night.

This is dark without time

And depth outside the span

Of sounding line or mind.

 

This is the endless

The Chaos come again,

That silenced the giants

And awed Olympians

And mocked the Israelites

As they contemplated the things

Nearest infinity.

 

And in this place

Spaceless and still

I can see in fullness

The lives now passed

And gain intimation

That one might choose

To hold my own

In similar aspect.

 

II

When at last we are spent

When strength of hand relents

And the lungs will no more pull

Against disorder, then

As the crimson light shines

We will think on remembrance,

We will think on time.

 

Is it mercy, then, or cruelty

To be, or have been alive?

Is it cowardice, then or courage

To have seen, then ripped out your eyes?

Or is it that distinction itself is the lie

And the truth is inscrutable

No matter if it lies

In the care of a distant God

Or in the clattering of dice.

 

Could it be that truth is inscrutable

But we each of us must still decide?

 

III

When morning comes,

We will furnish the dead with lilies

And lay them down so mud or fire

Might bring them home.

 

We will say,

Whatever words are said

In this the absolute extremity

Of our languages.

 

And we will place,

Like waypoints on a chart

The events that seem to mark

The love and hate and fear and grind and joy and glory

That was their actual lives.

 

That much can be said

For a simple service,

That lets silence speak for the dead

And does not pretend

That the life now committed

Means anything more

Than the love of those here gathered

To bring earth to earth.

 

And the love of that

Which one fine day

Will come in trumpets

To all of us return.

At Five O’Clock

And at this distance, the traffic sounds like water

And the tiny noises of the night

Flow singingly and soft

Out of stillness and in

To another yet another

Yet another day.

 

The faithful, they wake to pray

But I have not slept

And stay in dissipating vigil

Still grinding out the last stale hours

Of yesterday.

When did this day start?

How many minutes and months

Since I laid down head

In rest or in prayer?

 

And when will come tomorrow?

The day of the dog.

 

Not soon, I suspect.

That day is far from dawning yet,

And the longest hour has come.

 

At Six O’Clock

From the instant all this was made,

In fire,

From that instant all has decayed

And will end at last in silence,

And ice.

 

But still the light returns

As blood returns

To fingers made numb

By creeping cold.

 

And life returns

As life will return

Though those we loved are gone.

 

It returns unforgiving and we must carry on

As insults to entropy

And affronts to chaos.

Pushing against the gradient

Though it leads us at last to nothing.

 

Between here and there is what?

A life, I guess, for the living,

A dignity briefly wrestled

From the fingers of the second law.

 

A dignity and your breathing,

And the light, at last, of the rising sun.

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