Why rhyme? And why for this most late
And serious of texts: have I
Not saved such verse to jollify,
Upbraid, goad and commemorate?

—The tone of what the left hand writes:
Not the more deeply-cadenced mode
That must abjure the rhymer’s code
And the sharp closures it invites.

Why rhyme? To make it harder? But
Harder to what? Harder to tell
The truth when timed by such a bell,
When files of words are labelled “Shut”?

To make it easier to hum
Comforting songs against the blast
Of cold, wind, loss and undone past
And hollow wailings yet to come?

The wandering pathways of the verse
Secret occasions lose me in
End as unmarked as they begin;
In such rich woods all trails disperse.

No: “poetry nothing affirms”
As Sidney said, and cannot lie;
We live vers libre, but come to die
In something like rhyme’s final terms.

And thus, as death serves as a hedge
Around life, my imprisoned words
(Yoked to the task, not caged like birds)
Keep to the center, keep their edge.

This Issue

October 25, 1984