Dharma. Billy Collins

Dharma by Billy Collins

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she
would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

The Visitor

A red-eye flight to Minneapolis after Christmas

“It’s about Mom.  She’s worse.  Doctor said it’s a matter of days.  Can you come back?”

My sister from the Midwest was phoning on this gloomy mid-winter’s night in the Puget Sound.  Rain chattering on the roof, a chill in the air.

“I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

I got on the phone, used my flight miles to get a plane the next day, and started packing a bag for Minnesota, where the temperatures hovered in sub-zero range and snow was forecast.

The past few years had been a rough patch for Mom’s health.  Back surgery in her mid-70’s, respiratory infections, and then a burst colon that went untreated too long, resulting in sepsis.  She almost died then.  The doctors wouldn’t even give her odds.  She had so many surgeries they didn’t bother to sew her up for three weeks.  She survived, minus a large section of her intestines, and against her wishes, was checked into a nursing home.

She hated the nursing home, so she packed her bags one evening, called a taxi, and went back to her apartment.  She was met there by Emergency Medical Services and transported back to the hospital.  Eventually, she got her way – as usual – and moved back to her home.  She lobbied for a re-section of her intestines some months later.  It was successful.  She moved out of her apartment north of St. Paul into a cozy ground floor condo in a wooded area closer to the city and set about making what would be her last home.

My daughter and I had been back to see her in December.  She was perky, laughing, joking, and telling us how much better she felt and how she loved her new home.  Her Christmas tree was fully decorated with ornaments from my childhood, tinsel shimmering, lights twinkling.  We left fully believing this resilient 82-year-old was entering a new, exciting stage of life.

She drove to my brother’s house for New Year’s dinner, despite it being 20 degrees below zero and icy streets.  A few days later she starting having serious flu-like symptoms.  Soon she was once again in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  Her lungs were fragile, and she’d developed pneumonia.  Within days she was hooked to a respirator and was going in and out of consciousness.   And I was on my way to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on a red-eye.

I met my sister at Regions Hospital in St. Paul the next morning.  I could hear Mom’s raspy breathing before I could see her.  She was on strong pain medication, slipping in and out of a coma.  She blinked when I talked to her.  I squeezed her hand and she squeezed back.  My sister had made an appointment mid-morning with her doctor and a palliative care doctor.  As the oldest sibling, I was now part of the team on the ground.

The doctors cut to the chase – they’d tried everything over the past week.  Nothing was working; she continued to rapidly deteriorate.  It was time to move into the palliative care stage because survival was becoming less likely by the hour.  The pain was getting worse, she could not breath long unassisted, and they were draining her lungs of fluid several times a day with a chest tube.  She could pass any time, but almost certainly within a couple days.  She’d stay right where she was, in a quiet and naturally lit room.

The Death Watch

My youngest sister, with her young daughter and her husband, arrived from Hawaii.  So with my other sister, her daughter and her husband, who lived close by in Wisconsin, we were seven strong.  We worked out a plan so that at least one of us would be at our mother’s bedside from morning until evening.  My Hawaii sister’s family took that evening’s shift.  My Wisconsin sister’s family lived close by, so they drove home.  I was staying with long-time friends in Stillwater, where I’d grown up, just a half-hour’s drive from the hospital.

I had the next morning’s shift.  Mom was slightly responsive, so I sat or stood by her bed, held her hand and talked with her.  I just talked.  The old days.  The farm we grew up on.  The weather.  Politics (which she loved).  Kids now days.  She showed signs of recognition and comprehension.

I took regular breaks to walk around the big city hospital, get coffee, and have breakfast.  I was already a familiar face to hospital staff in this section, and they always greeted me with a smile and an offer of assistance.  I remember how pleasant Minnesota people can be.  Minnesota nice.

I put her headphones over her ears, moved a chair close to the windows, and sat down.  We were at the far end of a very large room with high ceilings on an upper floor of the hospital.  Thick curtains were set up to divide the room, or open it, as needed.  A wall of windows overlooked downtown St. Paul, its air frozen still in the deep winter sun, as if you could shatter it into a million pieces with a light hammer blow.  Smoke from the ventilation systems suspended in frozen puffs above the buildings.  No sign of even a breeze.

I put my head in my hands to cover my eyes and consider what was happening.  There is little you can do to change some things, but more that you can do to make it easier on everyone else.  I heard a rustling in the curtain between where I was sitting and my mother’s bed.

The Visitor

I looked up to see who it was.  But I saw no one.  I thought perhaps the ventilation system had disturbed the curtains, but there were no vents there.  There was no movement otherwise in the room.  No nurses, no staff, not even a voice.  All the activity in the section of the room beyond the next curtain was very hushed because in this part of the hospital, the patients were very sick.  Everyone was quiet, except for the lights blinking and a variety of machine noises.

I put my head back into my hands, and almost immediately I not only heard, but felt, the air around me begin to move.  At first it was a whispered breath passing my face, but then the air moved more turbulently, like a small, invisible tornado passing by.  I looked around and still saw nothing.  I went around the curtain to my mother’s bed.  There was no one there but her.  Somehow her breathing seemed steadier and she was resting, so I said nothing.

I went back to the window area and looked out again over the city.  Then I heard the distinct sound behind me of the curtains again rustling.  As I turned around, I saw them move, shimmer, from top to bottom.  An air disturbance seemed to come toward me, then the curtains stopped moving.  But in front of me air seemed to be moving, shifting.  I still could not see what was causing it, but I could feel it breathe on my shirt.  My face felt cooler.  A shiver went through me.  I could now distinctly hear wind rushing between canyons of fabric walls.

This is where my senses stopped being helpful in making any sense of what seemed to be pure energy moving rapidly, erratically, very close by.  It had mass that I could feel, but not see.  My logical mind kept telling me this could not be, that it was not.  But it was.  Something was.

There was another presence in the room that I could feel, but not see.  I reached out to try to touch it, and I took a step toward the turbulent air mass, but as I came closer, it moved away.  Then it was in back of me.  I turned, and now looking towards the windows I detected, not saw, but detected somehow the source of this presence.  It was at the top of the room.  It moved across the room, over the curtains, rustling them once again, then came past my mother’s hospital bed and around the curtains.

It was rapidly moving towards me.  I felt the force of air in front of it pushing on me.  As it came almost next to me, it dissipated.  Instantly.  As if it were never there.  The room became as it was before.  Curtains hanging languidly.  Not a sound except my mother’s breathing, and my heart beating.

I went to the bedside.  Mom seemed to be resting easier.  Before, I could see her fighting the respirator, with a grimace on her face, her hands clenched, her arms stiff has she braced against the IV’s taped into her.  Her breathing was still labored but steady.  The body tension had retreated.  She seemed to be slightly smiling.

My sisters and my two nieces walked in a bit later.  I could not begin to tell them what had just happened because I would not have known what I was describing.  I still don’t.

We started talking from both sides of Mom’s bed.  We kept the conversation natural so that we included her.  We weren’t sure what she heard, but it didn’t matter.  We just wanted her to feel our voices.

As we discussed the weather, the news, the ordinary and mundane, Mom stopped breathing.  She was breathing, then with one long exhaled breath, she stopped.  She was still.  She had died.  Her face was relaxed, and all stress left her.  She looked smaller.

“She’s gone,” one of us said.

“Could you please get a nurse?” I asked my oldest niece.

She was gone.  But to where?  Did she go with The Visitor?  Who was The Visitor?  What was The Visitor?  Did The Visitor come to check up on her?  Did The Visitor come to make her more comfortable?  Did The Visitor come to take her?  From where did The Visitor come?  Why did The Visitor make itself known to me?  Was there a message?

I don’t know the answers.  I categorize myself for the sake of convenience as spiritual, but not religious.  For now, I have only concluded that I had a visitor from somewhere else, a place I do not know.  I’m not in a hurry to meet this presence again.  Though maybe we all will in the end.

Rain Light – W.S. Merwin

Photo: S.W. Cosgrove

 

From W.S. Merwin’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book The Shadow of Sirius (Copper Canyon Press, 2008).

RAIN LIGHT

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning

“My Heart’s in the Highlands” Robert Burns

Robert-Burns-012

Arvo Pärt, Else Torp, and Christopher Bowers

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

 

 

 

 

A good whoopin’

A good whoopin’.

It’s happened to many of us.  To the fortunate others, it has not.  Corporal punishment.  Punishment intended to cause pain.  In polite, more acceptable terms, a spanking or a paddling.  Less acceptable, but perhaps more accurate: slapped with an angry hand, whipped with a belt, struck with an object like a stick, ruler, or spatula.   A caning, a thrashing, flagellation, a strapping, a lacing, or at the more extreme end: a beating.  A good whoopin’.

“Pull down your pants.”

The anticipation.  Then the delivery.  Whoosh, crack, pain.  Just like that.  Then again.  And again.

When I was a boy, my mother delivered the corporal punishment.  I was the oldest by about five years, so she had plenty of opportunity to get some of the meanness out of her system, as I never saw my brother or sisters experience what I had, though they did get the occasional spanking.

Was I just that much more incorrigible, a child who deserved to be smacked?  I asked myself that question many times.

I was mischievous, daring, an inveterate explorer, often pushing the boundaries.  I don’t recall a lot of lickings before my next sibling in line was born.  As best I can remember, it all started not long after my mother miss-carried and lost a brother I never knew when I was about three years old.  She and my father began arguing more, and yet, three more children were born.

I never saw my mother hit my father, nor my father hit my mother.  And my father never hit me.  But good ole’ Mom sure hit me.  Hard and often.  Sometimes it was a random strike at whatever part of me was most convenient.  A smack on the head, a punch in the shoulder, a slap in the face, a yank on my hair.  Other times it was an orchestrated event where I was orally chastised, often at great length, then the pants came down and I would take a set number of lashes in the biblical fashion on my bare ass.  It didn’t seem to depend on the transgression, as most I remember as being minor.   It depended on my mother’s mental state of the moment.  She had me pull down my pants, set me over her knee, and hit me with whatever was close at hand.  A yardstick, a ruler, a hairbrush, a stick, or a belt.

One time when she was hitting me with a yardstick, as I silently counted the blows, she broke the yardstick over my ass.  She stopped.  Then she laughed.  I counted this as good luck as she was only just getting started, and I laughed, as well.  I’d broken the yardstick on my skinny little butt!  I’m sure I didn’t consider how insane it was to laugh because I’d stopped being whipped.  I had yet to develop the keen sense of irony that I have to this day.

Mother had a variety of ways of meting out her punishments.  The most diabolical was to send me out to a willow thicket in the field and select a willow reed to be thrashed with.

“Go out and find yourself a strong willow branch and bring it back to me,” she’d say.  As you may know, willow branches are very flexible – they are like whips.  For ages, willow was used as a horse whip.  What a dilemma: I was to select the branch to be used in my punishment.

One day, when I was about 10, I didn’t return.  I just kept walking.  Past the willow grove, through the fields to my favorite spring-fed pond in the far reaches of the farm’s fields.  I sat in the shade of an old maple, or maybe it was a box elder, and thought long and hard about my alternatives.  Should I keep walking to the nearest road and not look back?  Should I just jump in the water and drown myself?  I didn’t know.

I sat for a very long time, then stripped off my clothes and jumped into the pond as I’d done many times before.  The cool water brought me around, cleared my head, and brought me back to the present.  I surfaced, and then I dove down again.  As the bottom grass tickled my face, I decided what to do.  I was going to walk back without the god-damned willow reed and announce that I was never going to the willow grove again.  If I was beaten, I’d get up in the middle of the night, take all the money I could find in the house, which wouldn’t be much, walk into town, and get on a bus to somewhere.  Anywhere.  And I’d never return.  I’d die first.

I went back to shore, slowly dressed, and then, over the hill, I saw my Grandpa walking to the pond.  He knew where to find me.  They’d been looking for me.  He took me in his arms, gave me a long hug, and I explained what had happened.  He shook his head and we walked back to my parents’ house without words.  He had me wait outside while he went in and talked with my mother.  When he came back out, he said, “You can go in now, there’ll be no lashing today.”  I walked through in through the kitchen, past my mother, who turned her back to me as I passed by, and went to my room.  Later, we all sat around the table to eat dinner in mostly silence.  I had little appetite.  I just wanted this dinner to be over.  I wanted this life to be over.

Much later, I talked to my grandparents about my mother’s behavior.  She was their only child.  They said they’d never touched her in anger or with malice when she was a child, and they did not understand how she came to be like this.  They thought it may have been due to a horse riding accident she’d had when she was seven years old.  Like me, she’d ridden and driven horses as a very young child.  Like me, she was a daredevil rider, and one day she was racing a car on the dirt road alongside the field when her horse stumbled at a full gallop, throwing her.  She hit her head on a rock and lost consciousness.  The car driver took her to the hospital in the nearest town of Beloit, Wisconsin.  She went into a coma and didn’t come out for three weeks.

When she finally opened her eyes, she couldn’t talk, walk or move her arms.  She wasn’t paralyzed.  Her brain had simply turned those functions off.  It took several months before she regained mobility and speech.  She had to learn to talk and move again from the beginning.

That was my grandparents’ theory, and it’s as good as any.  I just had to learn to protect myself from my mother when her brain was on fire.

Now, it’s often said that children who have experienced constant physical abuse often take on those same characteristics as they grow older and into adulthood.  It was exactly the opposite for me.  As a child, an adolescent, a teen and an adult, physical violence revolted me.  I looked on the school bullies with scorn and disgust.  I walked away from many fights, though I defended myself as necessary and defended others when needed.  I detested violent and aggressive school games like football, and I refused to play them.  My sports were track and field, skiing, basketball, skating, and riding horses.  To this day, I detest those who resort to physical violence.

I forgave my mother.  My grandmother often told me to “always forgive, but never forget.”  I follow her words to this day.

I’m most thankful for my grandparents and their farm across the field from my parents’ house.  I spent as much time as I could with them.  I loved the farming life, milking cows and goats, herding sheep on my horse with my grandfather’s German Shepherd, Prince, and being intensely involved in the life and death of every creature through all the seasons.  I enjoyed hard work and helping my grandfather with everything from fencing to haying to animal husbandry.  I nursed the orphan lambs through the first weeks of their lives. The farm gave me strength and purpose.

Here’s the final story I’ll tell on this subject.

One day, my mother came across the field from our house to my grandparents’ farm looking for me.  She was madder than a wet hen about something only known to her, and she started yelling at me about being irresponsible, not returning home on time, being just like my father, and whatever else surfaced.  I knew it was time to start putting distance between her and me, but when she saw me take off she grabbed the baseball bat I’d been playing with and came after me.  I headed for the nearest tree I could quickly climb at about the same time my grandfather came running from the barn.  He caught up with her, took the bat from her hands and told her to go home.  I spent the next days at my grandparents’ house, sleeping in my favorite place on earth, the large screen porch overlooking the big valley below.  It was pure peace.  I slept there many summer nights and late into the fall.

My mother, her soul at rest at last, used to say my grandparents “spoiled” me.

They didn’t spoil me.  They saved me.  I know exactly how lucky I am to have had them nearby.

Summers, I lived mostly with my grandparents.  My grandmother was an excellent cook, so I ate well.  She taught me about cooking and baking.  After supper, I played from the Lutheran hymnal or 1950s sheet music on Grandma’s old piano, listened to classical music on WCCO radio on the porch at bedtime, and drifted off into deep sleep.  I woke each morning to birds chatting in the misty sunrise that settled over the St. Croix River Valley from the porch of their 19th century farm house, had a hearty breakfast, and went out to help Grandpa with the chores.  I milked cows – and goats – collected the eggs for market, tended the huge garden, pruned trees in the apple orchards, rode my horse out into the fields, drove the tractor, and built forts.

As it happened, in the coming years I did run away from home a few times.  My mother and father got divorced.  My mother kicked me out of the house at 17.  Later in life, we reconciled to the extent we could.

All’s forgiven, nothing is forgotten.

 

Hey, can you guys come by to help me drop an engine into my Chevy?

Ever dropped an engine?  Into a car, that is.  I have, many times, back in the 1960s.

My first engine install was when I was 18 years old.  Dad had been an airplane mechanic, and he was a very competent car mechanic.  So I grew up with a wrench in my hand.  I’d bought a ’57 Chevy Bel Air four-door hardtop on the cheap, then wrecked it.  Went off the road in the early morning hours, through a fence, then end-over-end into a farmer’s field.  Flattened the top almost down to the dash.  My buddy and I were miraculously not injured, so we walked back to the road where there was a county sheriff waiting for us.  He had some questions.  Times being what they were, he told us to hop in and then gave us a ride home.  “Too bad you wrecked your car, but come by tomorrow and get it out of the field.  And get hold of the farmer to see about fixing his fence.”

This is almost exactly the same 1957 Chevy Bel Air four-door hardtop – even the same colors.

1957-chevrolet-bel-air-4-door.jpg

Next day, I got the Chevy home.  It was totaled, but the iconic small-block 283 V8 was just fine.  Word got out that I was looking for a car to put that engine in, and within days a friend towed over a ’55 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop with a blown 265 small-block V8 engine.  Perfect swap.

I got hold of a couple friends and we pushed the cars under a big oak tree, attached a block and tackle to the engine in the ’55, and started loosening bolts and tearing it out.  Took half a day.  The shade tree mechanics spent the rest of the day pulling the good 283 from the ’57.

Now came the interesting part – dropping the ’57 engine into the ’55.  In our haste to get me back on the road again, we hadn’t paid a lot of attention to what parts went where.  It all seemed so straight-forward as we worked away, banging our knuckles into bare metal, mixing blood with engine grease, and ripping everything apart.  Piles of parts everywhere.  Now we had to put it all back together.

I was not about to learn that dropping an engine into an engine bay was a lot trickier than taking one out.   We hoisted the engine and transmission on the block and tackle until it was dangling in mid air, then pushed the ’55 under it.  As we started to drop the engine in, we narrowly missed dropping it right through the windshield!

We finally got it in, secured the motor and transmission mounts, and then got to work installing the parts that would make it a whole car.  Connected the exhaust headers that had come with the ’55, and started on the drive shaft, wiring, gas line, radiator and cooling, and linkages – including the Hurst floor shifter.

Soon it was back together, and I was ready to turn the key and go for a spin.

It wouldn’t start.  It was turning over just fine, but it was just backfiring, which brought my next door neighbor over because it sounded like gunfire.  He was a veteran hot-rodder, so I immediately enlisted his expertise to find out why this pig would not grunt.  He couldn’t see anything.  Then he asked “the question”: did you take out the distributor and reinstall it?  Well, we had because when we were dropping the engine in, we’d mashed the distributor against the firewall and had to replace it with the spare distributor from the other engine.  He just smiled.

“Are you sure you got the distributor camshaft gear in exactly the right position?”

I thought we had, but there was an excellent chance we hadn’t.  So I pulled the distributor out and reinstalled it one notch over.  Pumped the gas, hit the key and it fired right up, sounding very sweet through those cherry bomb dual exhausts.

I was back on the road.  The ’55 was a mean looking car.  It had dark grey primered paint, no front bumper, and the front end was jacked up to give it the drag car look.  It sounded like a dragster, and it went like hell.  I drove it back and forth to college for about a half a year.  Never got a ticket.

Took a little searching, but here is a photo that comes very close to my ’55 Chevy two-door hardtop.  Primered paint, no bumper, mags on the front but not the rear.  Ruff, ready, and willin’!  See trailer at the end for a clip of “Two-Land Blacktop.”

1955-chevy-bel-air-2dr-hard-top.jpg

The end came on a back road on the way home from school one afternoon.  I was doing about 85 mph when there was a loud bang, the oil pressure gauge dropped to zero, and the exhaust turned to black smoke that appeared to mixed with some kind of particles.

I’d blown the engine.

I didn’t have time to swap in another engine, so I sold it cheap to a hot-rodder buddy.  He took the engine apart and told me the inside was just a mangled mass of rod bearings and parts of pistons.  He dropped in a 327 Corvette engine and raced it at the local drag strip.

I replaced it with a ’58 Chevy two-door hardtop – pretty blue with that venerable 283 V8.  Floor shifter, headers and very mellow sounding dual exhausts.  It needed a clutch, so I picked it up cheap and installed a clutch in my back yard, scooting around on my back in the dirt.

Here’s an image of the same model ’58 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop as the one I owned, except that the car was solid blue, not two-tone.

1958-chevrolet-bel-air.jpg

Over the next several years, I did a couple more engine swaps.  Dropped a 327 into my ’65 Impala Super Sport, swapped a Mercedes OHC six cylinder into my ’62 Mercedes 220S,  put a junk yard engine in a ’73 Pinto (why bother, one might ask), and even swapped a English Ford engine into a cute little ’58 English Ford Squire station wagon.

Never again!

Here’s a couple minutes of one of my all-time favorite films: “Two-Lane Blacktop,” starring songwriter James Taylor, Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, actor/director Warren Oates and Laurie Bird.  And – a primered out ’55 Chevy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Solitude” by Rainer Maria Rilke 

Solitude
Rainer Maria Rilke

Solitude is like a rain.
It rises from the sea toward evening;
from plains, which are distant and remote,
it goes to the sky, which always has it.
And only then it falls from the sky on the city.

It rains down in the in-between hours,
when all the crooked streets turn toward morning,
and when the bodies, which found nothing,
leave each other feeling sad and disappointed;
and when the people, who hate each other,
have to sleep together in one bed:

then solitude flows with the rivers . . .

“Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry

QUESTIONNAIRE
by Wendell Berry

  1. How much poison are you willing
    to eat for the success of the free
    market and global trade? Please
    name your preferred poisons.
  2. For the sake of goodness, how much
    evil are you willing to do?
    Fill in the following blanks
    with the names of your favorite
    evils and acts of hatred.
  3. What sacrifices are you prepared
    to make for culture and civilization?
    Please list the monuments, shrines,
    and works of art you would
    most willingly destroy.
  4. In the name of patriotism and
    the flag, how much of our beloved
    land are you willing to desecrate?
    List in the following spaces
    the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
    you could most readily do without.
  5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
    the energy sources, the kinds of security,
    for which you would kill a child.
    Name, please, the children whom
    you would be willing to kill.

With thanks to https://www.brainpickings.org/2019/08/14/wendell-berry-questionnaire-amanda-palmer/

 

 

This is the way the world ends – Not with a bang but with a whimper 

674612.jpg
The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz – he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Picture

II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer –

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

Picture

III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

Picture

IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of this tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

Picture

V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.