By the last few times we saw her it was clear That things were different. When you tried to help her Get out of the car or get from the car to the door Or across the apartment house hall to the elevator There was a new sense of heaviness Or of inertia in the body. It wasn't That she was less willing to be helped to walk But that the walking itself had become less willing. Maybe the stupid demogorgon blind Recalcitrance of body, resentful of the laws Of mind and spirit, was getting its own back now, Or maybe a new and subtle, alien, Intelligence of body was obedient now To other laws: "Weight is the measure of The force with which a body is drawn downward To the center of the earth"; "Inertia is The tendency of a body to resist Proceeding to its fate in any way Other than that determined for itself." That evening, at the Bromells' apartment, after She had been carried up through the rational structure By articulate stages, floor after flashing floor, And after we helped her get across the hall, And get across the room to a chair, somehow We got her seated in a chair that was placed A little too far away from the nearest table, At the edge of the abyss, and there she sat, Exposed, her body the object of our attention-- The heaviness of it, the helpless graceless leg, The thick stocking, the leg brace, the medical shoe. At work between herself and us there was A new principle of social awkwardness And skillfulness required of each of us. Our tones of voice in this easy conversation Were instruments of marvelous finesse, Measuring and maintaining with exactitude "The fact or condition of the difference There was between us, both in space and time." Her smiling made her look as if she had Just then tasted something delicious, the charm Her courtesy attributed to her friends. This decent elegant fellow human being Was seated in virtue, character, disability, Behind her the order of the ranged bookshelves, The windows monitored by Venetian blinds-- "These can be raised or lowered; numerous slats, Horizontally arranged, and parallel, Which can be tilted so as to admit Precisely the desired light or air." We were all her friends, Maggie, and Bill, and Anne, And I, and the nice Boston Brahmin elderly man Named Duncan, utterly friendly and benign. And of course it wasn't whether or not the world Was benign but whether it looked at her too much. She wasn't "painfully shy" but just the same I wouldn't be surprised if there had been Painfulness in her shyness earlier on, Say at dancing school. Like others, though, she had Survived her childhood somehow. Nor do I mean She was unhappy. Maybe more or less so Before her marriage. One had the sense of trips Arranged, committees, concerts, baffled courage Living it through, giving it order and style. And one had the sense of the late marriage as of Two bafflements inventing the sense they made Together. The marriage seemed, to the outside world, And probably was, radiant and triumphant, And I think that one could almost certainly say That during the last, heroic, phase of things, After his death, and after the stroke, she had By force of character and careful management, Maintained a certain degree of happiness. The books there on the bookshelves told their stories, Line after line, all of them evenly spaced, And spaces between the words. You could fall through the spaces. In one of the books Dr. Johnson told the story: "In the scale of being, wherever it begins, Or ends, there are chasms infinitely deep; Infinite vacuities. . .For surely, Nothing can so disturb the passions, or Perplex the intellects of man so much, As the disruption of this union with Visible nature, separation from all That has delighted or engaged him, a change Not only of the place but of the manner Of his being, an entrance into a state Not simply which he knows not, but perhaps A state he has not faculties to know." The dinner was delicious, fresh greens, and reds, And yellows, produce of the season due, And fish from the nearby sea; and there were also Ashes to be eaten, and dirt to drink.
Saturday afternoon. The barracks is almost empty.
The soldiers are almost all on overnight pass.
There is only me, writing this letter to you,
And one other soldier, down at the end of the room,
And a spider, that hangs by the thread of his guts,
His tenacious and delicate guts, Swift's spider,
All self-regard, or else all privacy.
The dust drifts in the sunlight around him, as currents
Lie in lazy, drifting schools in the vast sea.
In his little sea the spider lowers himself
Out of his depth. He is his own diving bell,
Though he cannot see well. He observes no fish,
And sees no wonderful things. His unseeing guts
Are his only hold on the world outside himself.
I love you, and miss you, and I find you hard to imagine.
Down at the end of the room, the other soldier
Is getting ready, I guess, to go out on pass.
He is shining his boots. He sits on the edge of his bunk,
Private, submissive, and heedful of himself,
And, bending over himself, he is his own nest.
The slightest sound he makes is of his being.
He is his mother, and nest, wife, brother, and father.
His boots are bright already, yet still he rubs
And rubs till, brighter still, they are his mirror,
And in this mirror he observes, I guess,
His own submissiveness. He is far from home.