The north star gleams faithfully; the faithful gaze she leads.
“Follow her, young man,” I heard, “to wise and welcome deeds.
She led our king to victory, she led his armies far.”
But I was young, and my eye clung onto a brighter star.
In the dark, my path seemed straight, though often I crossed that
Wide and hardened road that pilgrims’ feet wore flat.
A yawing, sawing way was mine, through realms that surely bar
Those too weak or wise to seek only the brighter star.
How pride seeps in
Through the cracks in the din
Of my loneliness after all!
For I polished my woe,
And I treasured it so,
As I hung it over the pall.
Maybe it replaced
The bright star I chased,
Though it didn’t make my way straighter.
I chance once more
Upon that road, for,
I always do, sooner or later.
And the north star gleams faithfully; my old friends, miles ahead
Down this path, no longer call. They’ve gone as they were led,
And all I have for wandering through nights of frigid tar
Are weary feet and something sweet to tell the brighter star:
That if it must gleam on again, and lead another soul
In its restless, shifting dance, faithless to either pole,
Then lead them far from this path, tear the sky ajar,
So they won’t see what they can’t be, chasing the brighter star.
The gallery is closing – I’m in the first room down the hall,
Studying second-rate oil masters whose names I can’t recall.
Angels, dryads, scenes of love hang from wall to wall.
My friend waits at the doorway, watching me all the while;
In her eyes a look of warmth, on her lips a knowing smile.
But there are too many paintings! Too many exiles of fame;
I’ve no time to see them all, feel their spirit, know their name,
But who is Jesus, who is Socrates, beyond what witnesses claim?
And if I can’t hold onto these strokes of passion’s toil,
Whatever will become of these moments set in oil?
Is it arrogance to hold on, to play saviour for a day?
I can’t save them from oblivion, for I too will fade away.
To be, or to remember? To wander, or to stay?
If meaning needs a memory, then for all our valour, we
Must hope some god is watching from his private gallery.
A guard’s waiting with my friend, and we pass around a smile.
He leads us out the door, then we stroll a little while
Through the beauty of a city decked in autumn’s fleeting style.
The gallery is closing, friends – see what you can see
It may reopen tomorrow, but who knows where we’ll be?
In vain I feign inebriation;
Its thinning spell no longer wins
My thoughts from me. The sky begins
To brighten in anticipation.
I slip down to the sinking shore
And ponder my emancipation.
My mind will find another cause,
My heart will find another love,
While the crushing waters shove
These ones down into death’s jaws;
A memory, a sorry sore
To rank among my ranker flaws.
Cold seas fold these wonders, and
Offer them more than I’d done:
An eternal safe belonging. None
Who dive for them could understand
Their lifeless gaze, their final breath
Held in my thoughts, lost under sand.
I sigh a lie, “I tried,” and wade,
Then swim off from the shaking isle
Which groans, and loses mile by mile.
Forget the promises I’ve made,
Forgive my lonely flight from death;
I was afraid, I’m still afraid.
All is betrayed, is still –
It's harder to move behind enemy lines;
The "Truth!" and "Freedom!" that were cried at the front
Now are but whispers, and no glory shines
A light by which we outcasts may hunt.
Are you counting your bullets? Do we have many left?
Do we still know the targets for which we'd aim?
Are we still the world's hope, still so winsome, and deft,
Or are we counted among the defective and lame?
I don't have regrets; we've all done what we must,
Drawn out from our dreams by our hunger and duty.
We all take what we're given, we reap from the dust
Our tale of heartaches, battles, and beauty.
Tell yours again as we map out the mines
Where we can find them, and shoulder the brunt
Of our hunger and worry, for no glory shines
A light by which we outcasts may hunt.
How, then, did the river wash me up here?
Those mad, cold currents, how did they find
A peaceful shore? I gasp and I peer
Back to the surge rolling out of its mind.
The struggle is over; I watch the sun’s gleam
Sparkle the waters that fought me, but, still,
Its warmth only feels like a toying dream.
I slide a bit lower and brace for the chill.