Shalom Freedman

Words Against Death


All the immortals are moral:
Tubercular Kafka spared Treblinka
Lunatic Nietzsche banging a piano to oblivion
Great Tolstoy escaping to a railroad coach,
Gentle Yeats frigid at Ben Bulben.

What lives is a work and that imperfectly:
A thousand bankrupt eyes ferreting the hearts of dead poets
Seeking confirmation for some strange emotion,
Doing the work in the course, being ‘intellectual’,
Satisfying a wicked ambition for
Knowledge or Love or Understanding.

Do these absurd gropings constitute an adequate remembrance?
And if they do, if deep within the heart of some wise reader
There lurks a true Nietzschean spirit,
Will Nietzsche live because of it?
Is Remembrance no matter how deeply touched by love,
Ever Resurrection?

Where K broods over a Ledean body,
Where that daring tightrope walker confuses wise old Karataev
(at Borodino or in the land of Zarathustra)
there the great poets live:

Could it have been,
That Kafka knowing this, sought vainly to preserve himself
When with deep ambivalence he willed his writings
to the flames?

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 14, 2008

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