Because They Rhyme They Live, Not I
'O Poesy! for thee I grasp my pen
That am not yet a glorious denizen
Of thy wide heaven; yet, to my ardent prayer,
Yield from thy sanctuary some clear air,
Smoothed for intoxication by the breath
Of flowering bays, that I may die a death...'
- John Keats, 'Sleep and Poetry
I suppose it is the late, or soon to be, poet's lot to jot one
for daffodils. At least one. This is mine, a last will to verse.
But first, I take a pill before dying, I mean,
its meager meal, yellow sun on a jaundiced plate.
'Consumption' is the word I want. I've got that,
and few breaths left and a flat voice to tell it in.
'The daffodils were yellow as the sun.'
So lay down thy pen. Ungrasp! I say.
An olden voice pulls at bruised skin.
I grow thin. And gasp. I grow thin as winter air.
I'll not see them rise again from bulbs perennially.
Not me, annulled in this season of the lung
though each breath mimics leaven, assumes
Eternity's aspirations, but...(where was I?) ...
not me, not long for my tongue to sing.
Meanwhile, bright petaled mouths flaunt, gape,
gulp in early spring, whereas, I flop here, leaden,
landed, banked, a carp brought to heel from bluer
lake pulling gills swallowing nothing that can sustain,
or not much. I sympathize, yes, then down another
pill for more air to clutch, breath an almost perennial
memory of last spring when it first edged me in,
clipped my singing short, when seasonal flowers so
easily rhymed but in a minor wheeze for a minor voice.
Fine then. Some one, some other poet write a
line for when I've gone under forfeiting all final drafts.
Those yard yellows spoon dirt to a useless
feeding sun, useless because I'm soon done in.
I'd do the same for you, Mr. Keats, in a soft, bleating tone of voice.
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(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
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