As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
‘Love has no ending.
‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,
‘I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.
‘The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.’
But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.
‘In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.
‘Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.
‘O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.
‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.
‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.
‘O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.
‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.’
It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.
From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Probably you’ll solve gravity, flesh
out our microbiomics, split our God
particles into their constituent bits
of christs and antichrists probably,
probably you’ll find life as we know it
knitted into nooks of the chattering
cosmos, quaint and bountiful as kismet
and gunfights in the movies probably,
probably, probably you have no patience
for the movies there in your eventual
arrondissement where you have more
credible holography, more inspiring
actual events, your ghazals composed
of crow racket, retrorockets, glaciers
breaking, your discotheques wailing
probably, probably, probably, probably
too late a sentient taxi airlifts you
home over a refurbished riverbank,
above the rebuilt cathedral, your head
dozing easy in the crook of your arm,
emptied of any memory of these weeks
we haven’t slept you’ve been erupting
into that hereafter like a hydrant on fire,
like your mother is an air raid, and I am
an air raid, and you’re a born siren
chasing us out of your airspace probably
we’ve caught 46 daybreaks in 39 days,
little emissary arrived to instruct us,
we wake now you shriek us awake,
we sleep now you leave us to sleep.
Copyright © 2019 by Jaswinder Bolina. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.