or swoon alone for free without embrace—
what moves the heart to heartbreak
will always make the petals close.
You can flee, you can hide between the beats of heartbeat,
you can turn bright eyes aside from love's dark fate—
but what can move the rueful heart
When you neither love nor hate?
Who can you trust, which way turn, when
dreams like dizzy rockets cross and crash,
flinging you down to earth so stark
amid a churn of char and spark?
(What turned lightning's stroke
to pale blue smoke at dusk
may yet turn love to dust
that blows away and leaves an empty husk.)
Here now you see how rivers
running fast and slow divert and dry.
Hear now these lovers running down cry "Time!"
when shadows veined with red run wild and stain the eye.
What For, they cry, this flash
and spark and manly flutter?
For What this smooth and supple
marbled flesh of womankind?
The old, the young: embrace, disclose;
desire the flesh, the flame, the rose;
Your dreams, your flesh: aspire, perspire—
but every year it takes more pain to reach the fire.
What then? What's wrong? If time
that held your heart enthralled so long
holds no hope but this at last,
this vexing gall at all that's past,
if waste that chewed itself to numbness
lives but to taste this morbid tongue again,
if haste that chased it's tail to madness
now flings and flays and flails itself again,
then hearts that rue such motion
Here now must still these throes.
Now lovers running down cry, "Time!"
Which only makes the petals close.
4th draft: 12/06/03
©1986 Ronald C. Southern