Murderers are easy
to understand. But this
that one can contain
death, the whole of death,
even before life has begun,
can hold it to one’s heart
gently, and not refuse
to go on living is inexpressible.
Rainer Maria Rilke
At a station
Mr Agio thought of Rilke.
It’s best that you have not seen
these past years or heard the
clicking of death’s tumbling reels,
the tapping of bones,
insistent, like a tap dripping.
Your angels have been scattered
to other worlds; not even in this
timeless space you created for them
could they escape the choking breath
and flaring arc of conquest.
Your trust in the truth
of Cezanne’s colours would struggle here
without meaning to harm you.
It would not be personal: nothing is.
Invasions have scoured the quiet earth
where once you beheld with wonderment
the beauty of ordinary, invisible things,
in the manner of miracles.
Now life leers at the slow season
where once you walked deep
in moon-washed woods.
Now the present is impatient
with itself. We crave the blur
of movement to hide our inaction.
You would see this, but more:
you would go, once, through the
sheer veils of the cities
and lightly touch their paperlike walls
(From The Life and Times of Mr Agio and Other Poems)