This, which flickers at night
in the skullcap of my thought,
mother-of-pearl trace of a snail
or mica of crushed glass,
isn’t church or workshop light
by red cleric or black.
All I can leave you is
this rainbow in evidence
of a faith that was fought for,
a hope that burned more slowly
than hardwood on the hearth.
Keep its ash in your compact
till every lamp is out
and the din becomes infernal
and a shadowy Lucifer sweeps down on a prow
on the Thames the Hudson the Seine
beating his wings of coal half-
severed from effort, to tell you: It’s time.
It’s no inheritance, no talisman
to calm the monsoons’ blast
on the spider’s thread of memory,
but a story only survives in ashes
and persistence is simply extinction.
The sign was right: he who saw it
can’t fail to find you again.
Everyone makes out his own:
pride wasn’t flight, humility wasn’t craven,
the thin glimmer striking down there

This Issue

November 19, 1987