What it must be like to be an angel or a squirrel, we can imagine sooner. The last time we go to bed good, they are there, lying about darkness. They dandle us once too often, these friends who become our enemies. Suddenly one day, their juniors are as old as we yearn to be. They get wrinkles where it is better smooth, odd coughs, and smells. It is grotesque how they go on loving us, we go on loving them The effrontery, barely imaginable, of having caused us. And of how. Their lives: surely we can do better than that. This goes on for a long time. Everything they do is wrong, and the worst thing, they all do it, is to die, taking with them the last explanation, how we came out of the wet sea or wherever they got us from, taking the last link of that chain with them. Father, mother, we cry, wrinkling, to our uncomprehending children and grandchildren.
William Meredith - 1919-2007
For Robert Lowell I In the tunnel of woods, as the road Winds up through the freckled light, a porcupine, Larger than life, crosses the road. He moves with the difficulty of relics— Possum, armadillo, horseshoe crab. To us they seem creatures arthritic with time, Winding joylessly down like burnt-out galaxies. In all their slowness we see no dignity, Only a want of scale. Having crossed the road oblivious, he falls off Deliberately and without grace into the ferns. II In another state are hills as choppy as lake water And, on a hillside there, Is a junkyard of old cars, kept for the parts— Fenders and chassis and the engine blocks Right there in the field, smaller parts in bins In a shed by the side of the road. Cows graze Among the widely spaced rows, Which are irregular only as an old orchard is, Following the contours of the hill. The tops of the cars are bright colors still And as pretty as bottles hung on a bare tree Or painted cinder blocks in a garden. Cars the same age are parked on the road like cannibals. III At the edge of a harbor, in a field That faces the ocean they came by and left by, Statues of soldiers and governors and their queen Lie where the Africans put them. Unbewildered, not without understanding, The marble countenances look at the green Continent; they did their best; plunderers Were fewer among them than men of honor. But no one comes for them, though they have been offered. With chipped extremities, in a chipped regalia They lie at angles of unaccustomed ease. In the parks and squares of England are set up Bolder, more dreadful shapes of the ego, While African lichen confers an antique grandeur On these, from whom men have withheld it. IV At the edge of the Greek world, I think, was a cliff To which fallen gods were chained, immortal. Time is without forgiveness, but intermittenly He sends the old, sentimental, hungry Vulture compassion to gnaw on the stone Vitals of each of us, even the young, as if To ready each of us, even the old, for an unthinkable Event he foresees for each of us—a reckoning, our own.