One day, when I am recently no more,
my children will come here, a long-saved key
used fumblingly by one; the other three
standing, subdued, behind him at the door.
They’ve come to survey what I’ve left behind–
some things acquired here, but much more
that I brought from the life I had before–
to divvy up what of worth they can find.
They’ll find some stuff too good to throw away:
An old desk, some paintings, some silverware.
Some pots and figurines, though to a taste not theirs,
had best be kept, to sell another day.
But of the rest? Cupboards of used cookware–
unappealing, with the old food burnt in.
Faded curtains, sticky rugs, sheets worn thin;
an old sagging wardrobe, not worth the repair.
They could not see, when they opened the door,
I’d left something else, that now flows outside.
A small dam broken, a mouth opened wide,
from the house it bursts, in a silent roar.
It is the fluid that I’ve wept, the grime
of sorrow gathered in these latter years,
excretions of my weary heart, the tears
accumulated softly over time.
For shame that clings, for joys I cannot keep,
I’m doubly stabbed. For strangers’ ills–the grains
of human sand through which a world of pain
is seen–for these, and so much more, I weep.
Tears for my hubris, my follies, and more.
The misjudged moments, the careless words said.
Love’s gift not treasured; exploited instead.
My child wails at my going, yet I still shut the door.
I grieve the early years of family.
A powdered baby, held to my shoulder;
hugs at sleeptime when they were older;
skipping from school. How brief those days would be!
I cry in lament of passion’s passing.
Memories–once sweet, by the years turned sour–
of joys, from lust’s first seed to love’s full flower,
and of my last love, in the kitchen, dancing.
But for the smug and saints, all those who die
when they are old must bear this final scourge,
and add their tears to the rivers that merge
to flow unseen, and in the hollows lie.
Already I skim this miserable lake,
sails taut from a wind that stings in my eye.
A place close ahead is where I shall die,
while my past dissolves in the misty wake.
|It may read like an unchecked outpouring, but this was the first time I began making conscious choices about rhyme and metre. I opted here for envelope quatrains, more usually found nesting in pairs of twos or threes inside sonnets. The appeal was that the outer rhyme (lines 1 and 4) is fragile, and is easily lost if the inner lines are complex – for example with enjambments or subsidiary clauses. This gave me a way to tone down the rhyme at the start, where the focus is literally materialistic, so that it’s almost prose; then, as the poem becomes more lyrical, to let the rhymes ‘show through’. Well, that was the theory!|