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Aubade

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night
Waking at four to the soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation; yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
-The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb.
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here
Not to be anywhere
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear -no sight, no sound
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And it stays just on the edge of vision
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision
Most things may never happen; this one will
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good;
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know
Have always known, know that we can't escape
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse
The sky is white as clay, with no sun
Work has to be done
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

(1977)

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Copyright 1997 Artemis