What shall I do to fill the sense of void?
The night is heavy like a coverlet
Upon this fevered man who cannot move
His feet, his legs, his hand, his giddy head.
The smell of citronella, Insects’ whir,
The slender assagai against the fence,
The aardvark pawing at the rotting stump,
The eerie sheen of moonlight on the veldt
Press in upon the vanguard of my life.
In the kraal the intermittent cry
Of Lumba’s baby measures out the hours;
Its swift incision cuts the straining ropes
That hold the bastion of my sanity.

Out of my panicked depths the swell brings up
Two lines I learned from Auden on Yeats’ death:
  ‘The provinces of his body revolted
 The squares of his mind were empty.'

Never shall I return to Oregon
Nor see the gulls by Neal-Kah-Nie light,
The moist, clean forms of holly, razor-edged,
The fruit trees on the foothills of Mount Hood.
Even when I was only eight my wish
Was to be buried in a country plot
Near Bethany, Damascus, or Monroe,
Not one well-tended but knee-deep in leaves
Of peeling-barked madroƱas in the rain.

Not dying, God, but dying in this place,
Dying where there was never from the first
A sense of home, a sense of knowing love,
A sense of unity with smells, with soil,
With flowers, landscapes, birds, familiar sounds,
A sense of sharing one’s most transient life
With those whose eyes one understood at once.
Here there was always mystery in their eyes,
Never the light for me but vacant stares
Looking through me as if diaphanous
And what transfixed them were outside of me,
As if I were an interference poised
Between them and their nameless numina.

Until the precipice of this last hour
I believed that You would order life for me
To end the way that You had ordered-five
To follow four or be the half of ten.
I would go home. I moved by that sole hope.
Whether to live or die I would go home.

I will not go. The end is destined here.
Thoughts of all man-made consolations, God,
Increase my pain. There now is no pretense.
I go out to this death with no defense.
Lumba’s baby cries my requiem,
My final terror in an ochre land.

Copyright 2008 © George Edward McDonough.  All rights reserved.

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