Click here to listen to Steve Kronen read this poem.
It will be exactly like this, this life, this room, all of it the same. At sunrise, dull as a corpse, the bird of time staring from the copse, the hollow fountain ringing as servants resume
their chores in the cold. O, terrible youth! The heart, empty,
just as in this life. And the voices of winter,
voices of the poor, calling from their ragged city.
And singing to himself, the window-mender.
From under her dirty bonnet the old woman, fragile,
screaming her fishes, and beneath his blue apron,
a man will set down his wheelbarrow, spit upon
his calloused hands and bellow, an unforgiving angel—
just as it is here. This life, this table—
Goethe, inkstand, the stink of time,
paper, the woman who reads your mind,
O my child, the pen and portrait, Bible.
Exactly like this life. This same garden,
shadowed, overgrown, thick. And at noon
people gather, hungry, pleased to take part in
the communal life, though no one
knows another, but each knows this: one is dressed
as for a party and opening the door, enter
the night, alone, without love, without lantern.
Exactly as in this life. The same dim way through the forest,
midday in autumn, along the forest trail,
where it turns, downward, cautious as a woman
bending to gather flowers that might help heal—
listen, we will meet again as it once was when, when …
And you will have forgotten the dress you wore, its color …
But what happiness I’ve found has been brief and spare.
O, you will dress in pale lilac, my beautiful sorrow,
the flowers in your hat, tiny, steeped in dolor –
I will not recall their names, all of them foreign,
unnameable but one, the forget-me-not, asleep
in the weedy ravines of the hide-and-seek
world, just as now, left alone, an orphan.
And there, redolent of rain, where the wall’s collapsed,
flowers on their hollow stems quiver
and the fat fallen weeds, drowsy, nap
by the silent river.