Where Was When

Where Was When

By John Hollander

(posted Wednesday, June 11)

To hear the poet read “Where Was When,” click here.

Unparadised, out of place
In all that is the case
(Envy, plotting, disgrace,

Fault, sin, naughtiness, crime)
We were thrown into time,
Being’s new paradigm:

And thrust amidst that plain
Unwelcoming terrain
No life could remain

Unwounded, as the round
World’s long tale unwound
The cord by which we’re bound.

Abel the shepherd swain
And the dark farmer, Cain
Bring us around again

To death seen in its first
Form on earth: murder, worst
Crime, wherewith death is cursed.

The mark of being unjust
Falling on each death must
Infect the ultimate dust:

Here it was farmer killed
Hunter on soil he’d tilled,
Founding a bloody guild

The farmhands of our foe.
The harvester whose slow
Cut lays the tall grain low:

Time, with his chronic scythe
Beneath whose swish we writhe
Whose repetitions tithe

Tidily, sans surcease
The time of our short lease,
Our little space of peace.