Lord, were I not a poet, but myself,
Were I not this tenacious weary student
Of dusty volumes placed upon the shelf
Brimming with their ideas wise and prudent;
Were I not this, a fly trapped in the web
Of many kinds of ancient, modern lore,
Yarns and tall tales that don't seem to ebb
In their account of what went on before;
Were I not what I am, this misbegotten
Creature, "time's eunuch," that was aye the brunt
Of mankind's fallacies, hushed sins forgotten,
Rank fanciful illusions formed to blunt
The pain of consciousness—were I not this,
I might, like many others, dream of bliss.
But dreams of bliss do not sustain, and I
Am well aware, retain full consciousness
Of what it does and means to tell a lie,
To keep a lie, to harbor and profess.
What did I want in youth? To help the world,
To ease it of its sorrows, when I've done
In practice opposite; youth's dreams unfurled
Once proudly now dried out beneath the sun.
The pains of which I was the instigator,
And, inadvertently, through my verse am,
To all the natural world a heathen traitor,
To human brethren close-lipped like a clam;
These all, my human nature not forgetting,
I understand, and so I keep regretting.
The vain intent, that words may seem a beauty
When ugliness upon this beauty hangs;
The vain conceit, that I fulfill my duty
In writing down my love's deceptive pangs--
When that for which I long is but a lie,
Never of truthful substance, always false,
Meager attempt a cold heart to deny,
And stifle in the mind deep conscience calls.
Why am I so unfit? Why must I ever
Upon great conflagration oil add,
As must a man from all his brethren sever
And outcast him, a creature mean and bad?
For what I am, is never what I wanted,
But be a simple boy, thoughtless, undaunted.
Prisoner to my thoughts I seem to be,
Too all-wrapt-up in mental pain to lend
A hand of consolation; such as we
But hope to see our life's poor pittance end.
Lord, how to this low state did I descend!
When I was never scheming, full of wile,
Though I have learned full well how to pretend,
And cover up my cunning with a smile.
Only an age of treachery begets
The kind of falsehood that so binds my being,
And grafts upon a soul that no tear wets
Deceitful words, ear pleasantly agreeing;
For heart and ear engage in rank collusion
Pretending true love which is an illusion.
This love we write about! The ancient books
Uphold us in our lie, false claims of beauty
Behind which scholars bald leer dirty looks,
When man would rather grab and grope some cutie
Than think on thoughts well-written and sublime,
To which, because a man must hold his stature
He pays lip service, worst of all in rhyme,
Declaring them the highest aim in nature.
But, Father, most of all, I long for rest;
Not love, not sex-drive, nor esteem of peers
Can offer me, my sinfulness confessed,
The barest consolation: Only tears.
Tears for which I have given up all trying,
My burnt-out wells incapable of crying.
There is no sin: all sins have been forgiven.
There is no hope: all hopes have been fulfilled.
There is no fear, all fears forever riven;
Nor discontent, contention being stilled.
This by the Lord was done, but though he died
I wonder, can the miracle be real
Of which great books proclaim? The tears he cried
A balm all human sinfulness to heal?
The sufferance of our sin, when humankind
Was born not to be fragmentary, false,
But rather gentle, peaceful, loving, kind,
Moved by a tranquil, not an angry pulse.
This Jesus taught, and showed us with his life,
But memory of sin cuts like a knife.