Things that Die

To sorrow in the things that die
     and will not return to us,
the memories that grip like ghosts
     to places, scents and things,
the names and shades that call to mind
     what in world no longer is,
as if to remind us that this life
     is consumed already in dreams —

tell me, what is more human than this?
     Lamentation and revelry
are thing and shadow, and which is which
     is any man’s to say. Life
and fantasy are blurred in the divide.
     To craft what is or will be,
forging will from want, is as much
     to live as daily life itself.

We are beings of this netherworld,
     this neither here nor there,
this neither then nor now,
     this neither is nor is not.
Not ur-built to order nor slave to chaos,
     our clay is not clay, our spirit
not spirit, but the two are one
     and the one is ever twain.

We are human beings, not human bes,
     and the things that die are liminal
to those that yet remain,
     reminders constant of the pain
that haunts like a ghost in living.
     A burnt manuscript, a buried pet,
a forgotten work, a slumbered brother,
     and all the things we have been

but can no longer be to one another —
     our mansions are built, framed,
and windowed on bones. We are each scion
     to masses of the dead, vaster
far than Xerxes’ serried ranks. Regret
     it not, O man! A life so dearly bought
is more precious than any hand
     but God’s could weigh. Adam’s travesty,

Cain’s fratricide, to them catastrophe,
     are to us but seed and water.
Then squeeze the blood from bone, O man!
     That is your racial vocation.
Atone for being by delighting it.
     Raise towers from rubble,
summon wights from shade, congeal
     all-too-solid flesh from spirit.

He alone lives who is craftsman
     or the lover of the craftsman’s art.
Otherwise man is but a beast
     and lays already in corpse.
Then sorrow to rejoice in the things that die;
     wring jewels and gems from tears
and with fleshdust and knives of bone
     mold and hone the heart.

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