Eight Epitaphs

I.

You liked your scrolls ? – Here they are.
The manuscript of your book ? – Here it is.
Your wine and figs ? – Here they are.
The portrait of your wife ? – Here it is.
Your garden and your house ? – Here they are.
The box you never opened ? – Here it is.

You are all here, this is all of you.
Your soul would have nothing to add.

 

II.

Before I went, I had a dream.
The messenger squeezed through
from the other world.
It was painful to look at him,
but he was in pain, too.
His flesh pressed him hard.

He groaned: "You shouldn't go now.
Child, the time has not come yet.
You should stay and know
this leaden light."

Stranger, reading these lines,
how could I play and grow
where an angel wriggles and cries ?

 

III.

If you love me, she asked,
jump down from the rock.
I did, and Eros preserved
me alive. Yet I froze like a dog
in the sea, and soon died.

I am in the cold eternity,
and love I never will -
Thanatos rescued me
from a greater chill.

 

IV.

My son loved music
and I put near him a flute
wrapped in a strip of silk,
to keep the dirt from it.

When the winds don't blow,
at the end of day,  
I believe I know
that I hear him play.

 

V.

Her mother wanted her so badly
that she would pester me
almost every night, pounding doggedly
on the door, weeping under the fig tree.

I knew that sooner or later
I would have to let her go.
When she fell ill last winter,
I knew at once what I know.

 

VI.

Come to me holding the blades of grass,
Come to me at once.
Enter my room in your silken dress,
give me a caress.

The whole planet is pressing you now.
I know how
desperately you want to come
from your crowded home.

 

VII.

If I wanted to hug you, I would have
to hug both the day and the night,
the mountain on the left,
and the waterfall on the right.

I would have to retain you
once and for all.
Here, between the mountain
and the waterfall.

 

VIII.

I am sitting at the table,
writing my own epitaph.
The parchment is pressed
by a piece of marble.
There is wine, a peach cut in half.

Shall I say that I was blessed
with a long life, for I loved the mist
in the mountains, the bird in the nest
more than my soul,
which was creeping low ?
That the peach is whole ?

The dead would already know,
and the living would not listen.

 

EXCHANGE

Today your things depart. Your faience cup
fell off the table at sunrise and cracked.
Your old grey dog did not come up
the stairs. I went to look for him, he had died
in the long grass, near your library,
under your favourite mango-tree.

The silk ribbon you tied on the scroll
was eaten by the mould, it doesn't hold at all.
the scroll has opened up, and shows your blanched words
like a beggar his few coins.
The last couple of butcher-birds
flew away yesterday, and now only silence trills,

roams through the forlorn garden, with a reed,
its huge eyes gazing around.
The air itself smells like raw meat
attracting death here, the hungry hound.

What else can be said ? I don't look in the mirror
any more, not because I've become too old,
I don't wish to see that unrelenting door
which separates me from your brittle world,
from the slight immutable images, their bitter taste,
your dog running now to you with all haste.

Frail beauty of eternal things,
a silver arrow buzzing like a mad beetle,
slowly spreading around its magpie's wings,
becoming a serpent with a gaudy rattle,
waking up slumbering plants and fruits,
trees of the rainy garden, with mossy hoods.

The more my time runs out and I am drawn
towards the inner need of this half-life,
the more I recognise that I won't know
your hands again, the mole of your left shoulder,
your ink-spotted fingers, your defiant laughter,
that you won't be, that I'll replace you there
with my own defeat and my own despair.

Inhaling deeply the air saturated with dew,
forcing green lances to turn away from the sky,
with the jasper moth on my shoulder I will go to you,
the ladybirds flying into my rampant eye
and out, away, to the stagnant pond
brimming with violet algae mixed with my hair,
catching tadpoles and newts in its snare,
with my hand getting a tighter hold

of the cluster of skunkweeds. You will write to me
that my grey dog died under the mango-tree,
that the ribbons fell off my old wedding-dress,
that the mirror still bears the trace of my lips,
that you know you can still sense my caress
within the spinning gut of eternity.

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