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At Shelley's Grave.

 Five days of steady rain, and in the grip of night The wind,
draped in black, leaps with a violent shout To drive a shoulder into the
walls of our wooden house, Sending a shudder through its entire length,
then a wail As the rafters strain against their ancient framing nails.
 I climb from bed to stare out the vibrating window, Fearful of the
saturated soil and the blue Eucalyptus, A massive pair just outside,
each eighty feet tall at least, Likely to crush us in a moment were
either to fall, As others in the neighborhood have toppled before,
And in similar conditions, one cleaving our roof in two Not long before
we moved in, as old photographs reveal. There is nothing to see, but I
feel the wind lash the trees, Long streamers of shredded bark rattling
overhead, And think of Shelley's lifeless body washed in the waves
Breaking against the shoreline of the Ligurian Sea. Twice I have been a
pilgrim to his grave, at twenty, Again at forty--what did I think I
would find there? Under the slope of the pyramid of Publius Sestius,
Under the shield of the Aurelian Wall, bulwark of fear,
Only the feral cats of Rome wandering the pathways. Tonight I have found
I will return a final time. I know the wind will blow and I will linger
at the stone Seeking to recover who I was so many years ago, When I
journeyed to a shrine and believed I knew why.
Now I will go like a man with a foam cup holding a sign By a freeway
onramp, and though I will mumble some words, I will mostly remember
Wilde's regret the body was found, The ashes interred here beneath
these swaying cypress, In the shadow of this pyramid and looming wall--
Some say it was Hunt, some Trelawny, who reached in And dragged the
smoldering heart from the ashes, The heart that would not burn,
flickering with a blue flame, The heart Mary kept with her to the day of
her death Until her son finally had it buried in the family grave
At the Anglican church in the center of Bournemouth. It is one of those
improbable tales too good to doubt, Too doubtful to believe, like that
of the emperor Valerian Flayed and stuffed with straw and hung up for
decades In a temple of Zoroaster somewhere in the depths of Fars--
Shelley lying in Rome without a heart, his heart lying In the land that
reviled him and drove him into exile. I was an evangelist too, on fire
with love, on fire with fire, On fire with the same glib creeds of
liberty and justice That sent him fleeing England and its baying hounds,
On the run from my own home, unsure of my return, But sure our own
rulers were sworn enemies of humanity, Hired killers for plutocrats and
marketplace whores, Bent on annihilation and rabid for Armageddon. There
was a time when I once thought this was true.
Now I am standing here saying what I do not really believe, That things
have changed since you tossed your life away In a foolhardy moment you
should have known to avoid. It's the same story, with the same
demagogues and mayhem, The same mullahs, pornmongers, suckups, and
inquisitors,
The same predation, the same beat-downs and hallelujahs-- All here and
now more lethal than you could have imagined, Still the daily outrage,
live dog on dead, dead dog on live, The same carnival of hatred and
fear--the same gnostics, The same bunco, the old misery--but it is
better, Shelley,
Things are getting better for all the signs to the contrary, And even if
I'm wrong, I want to think you would agree, No matter how bad you
would find it, or how worse it may get, Because I'm done thinking
it was best you drowned that day, As if that saved you from something
better not to know,
Or wishing with Wilde you had remained at sea forever, Or dreaming of
myself on that boat too, undecked Ariel, Twin-masted, gaff-rigged, and
seven ways unseaworthy-- Too much mast and sail, too little freeboard,
too little boat, Undermanned, underbouyant, two tons of iron ballast--
A craft built only for fine weather and strong swimmers, A coffin, a
wreck in the making from the day of her launch, Twelve miles off Livorno
and heeled over in a sudden gale, Her leeward gunwale lips a wave, then
dives beneath, The sea in an instant floods in, the entire hull awash,
A tremble, the rudder shears away and both masts fall, Three sailors
leaping to their deaths as the boat disappears, Young Vivian, you, with
that book shoved in your coat, Williams still in his boots, three women
waiting at San Terenzo, Three men halfway home, flailing, with no savior
in sight. 
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Author:Morrison, Peter (American writer)
Publication:Northwest Review
Article Type:Poem
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Nov 1, 2011
Words:851
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