On a scrap of paper in the archive is written I have forgotten my umbrella. Turns out in a pandemic everyone, not just the philosopher is without. We scramble in the drought of information held back by inside traders. Drop by drop. Face covering? No, yes. Social distancing? Six feet under for underlying conditions. Black. Just us and the blues kneeling on a neck with the full weight of a man in blue. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds. In extremis I can’t breathe gives way to asphyxiation, to giving up this world, and then mama, called to, a call to protest, fire, glass, say their names, say their names, white silence equals violence, the violence of again, a militarized police force teargassing, bullets ricochet, and civil unrest taking it, burning it down. Whatever contract keep us social compel us now to disorder the disorder. Peace. We’re out to repair the future. There’s an umbrella by the door, not for yesterday but for the weather that’s here. I say weather but I mean a form of governing that deals out death and names it living. I say weather but I mean a November that won’t be held off. This time nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the storm that’s storming because what’s taken matters.
I walk through the long schoolroom questioning; A kind old nun in a white hood replies; The children learn to cipher and to sing, To study reading-books and history, To cut and sew, be neat in everything In the best modern way—the children's eyes In momentary wonder stare upon A sixty-year-old smiling public man.
I dream of a Ledaean body, bent Above a sinking fire, a tale that she Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event That changed some childish day to tragedy— Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent Into a sphere from youthful sympathy, Or else, to alter Plato's parable, Into the yolk and white of the one shell.
And thinking of that fit of grief or rage I look upon one child or t'other there And wonder if she stood so at that age— For even daughters of the swan can share Something of every paddler's heritage— And had that colour upon cheek or hair, And thereupon my heart is driven wild: She stands before me as a living child.
Her present image floats into the mind— Did Quattrocento finger fashion it Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind And took a mess of shadows for its meat? And I though never of Ledaean kind Had pretty plumage once—enough of that, Better to smile on all that smile, and show There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.
What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap Honey of generation had betrayed, And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape As recollection or the drug decide, Would think her son, did she but see that shape With sixty or more winters on its head, A compensation for the pang of his birth, Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?
Plato thought nature but a spume that plays Upon a ghostly paradigm of things; Solider Aristotle played the taws Upon the bottom of a king of kings; World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings What a star sang and careless Muses heard: Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.
Both nuns and mothers worship images, But those the candles light are not as those That animate a mother's reveries, But keep a marble or a bronze repose. And yet they too break hearts—O Presences That passion, piety or affection knows, And that all heavenly glory symbolise— O self-born mockers of man's enterprise;
Labour is blossoming or dancing where The body is not bruised to pleasure soul, Nor beauty born out of its own despair, Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil. O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?
Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after, And the poetry he invented was easy to understand; He knew human folly like the back of his hand, And was greatly interested in armies and fleets; When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter, And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
So early it’s still almost dark out. I’m near the window with coffee, and the usual early morning stuff that passes for thought. When I see the boy and his friend walking up the road to deliver the newspaper. They wear caps and sweaters, and one boy has a bag over his shoulder. They are so happy they aren’t saying anything, these boys. I think if they could, they would take each other’s arm. It’s early in the morning, and they are doing this thing together. They come on, slowly. The sky is taking on light, though the moon still hangs pale over the water. Such beauty that for a minute death and ambition, even love, doesn’t enter into this. Happiness. It comes on unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really, any early morning talk about it.