Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LOVE IN DEATH, by GRANT HYDE CODE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

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LOVE IN DEATH, by            
First Line: How do we live? How do we draw our breath
Last Line: Shall our dust be blown among them after we die?
Subject(s): Death; Dead, The


HOW do we live? How do we draw our breath
Under the stagnant grey of a city sky?
Who has given us daily courage to wake,
To rise in the morning, to look out of our windows,
To face the insane, geometric walls and spires,
Roofs and chimneys and endless drooping wires?
Prisoners in the walls of perpetual death,
Shall we be dead forever and never die?

There are confused, half-comprehended stories
Of a wan white face, a tired, dead face, who came
Out of some stagnant eddy of walls and spires,
Sick with the urgent thronging of sad desires,
Dazed with the roar and rumble of cars and motors,
The dust and glitter of shoddy limousines,
Drays and trucks and carts and wagons and cabs.
After the incoherent mutter of streets,
The ocean spoke with a strong, untroubled voice.
A white face turned to the line of sky with yearning.
White hands were lifted in prayer to the naked stars.
Hot, white feet pressed the cool dust of shells.
Then someone descended slowly out of the shadows,
Stepped through the ripples of yellow water-light,
Laughed at the touch of the smooth cool water rising —
Water lifting to clasp his waist and shoulders.
He quit the sand and slid through a crystal ocean,
Reached out into the silence with languid arms,
Drew his weary muscles through soothing water
Out of the powder of foam, white feather of bubble.

How long did he follow the moon road over the water?
How long ascend the white path to the sky?
What did they say when they found he had gone away?
Stepped to the edge of the earth and paused a moment,
Lifted in vision to the high horizon
Along the white moon pathway to the stars,
Facing the endless ocean as one faces
Eternal death.
Did he smile at the stars, admire a broken shell,
Stir the sand about his feet like a child?
Did he start when a heron cried; did he shiver and laugh?
The murmurous voice of the ocean whispers: He smiled!
He slid out of the light into the shadows,
Floated in shadows, swam in the shadows, bathed
In cool green shadows lit with yellow light,
Dove through the smooth green hollow of a wave.

Day followed night forever across the water.
Wave and tide and light descended to shore.
Does he live, except in legend, who sought to follow
The lane of light that swept up over the sea?
The whispering babble of ocean murmurs: Follow;
Be drawn toward the urgent beauty and pain of stars;
Find the peace of the sea and live no more.
The tide returned slowly; the silent beach
Caught grey shadows of dawn in hollow pools
Where feet had passed; waves sauntered along the pebbles;
Small waves carelessly touched the deserted rags;
Wind-driven sand and water obliterated
The pathetic trail descending into the sea,
Erased the story and set the swimmer free.
The dreadful tide welled up into the coves
Between the scum-green piles of the wooden bridge.
Tresses of seaweed floated upon the water —
Strands of sodden kelp like sea-drowned hair.
There were empty garments awash at the water's edge.
This is a legend of the mysterious sea,
Drifting in whispers through my empty room,
Heard through fragments of a departing dream.
My dream thoughts follow the drowsy thought and story
Up the lane to the fringe of sand and spray.
My murmurous thoughts whisper like speaking water,
Whisper my legend too of the dreadful sea.

How shall we live unless we turn aside
From the sad white faces, the wan dead faces passing,
Interminable sick faces crowded forward
And the deadly monotone of persistent feet
Thrust forever down the desperate street?

Somewhere a lane is wet with pools of sunlight,
Falling like rain through a cloud of windswept leaves.
Somewhere a white lane sweeps up over a hillside,
Over a moor to a white cliff by the sea.
Somewhere waves roll down from a clean horizon
To dissolve in smoke on a bar of pebble and sand.
Climb the lane and the moor and you may stand
High in the sun and the wind from across the sea,
Crushing the deadly hellebore under foot,
Wading in fragrant juniper up to your knee.
There looking down to the tossing fringe of spray
You may see the brown-skinned fishermen's children play,
Tumble out of the water in games and races
With sleek drenched hair and streaming limbs and faces.
Shall we not hope to stand on an open headland,
Clean of the filth and clutter of crowded men;
Watch the thin bright disc of a coral sun
Slant through sprays of cloud like apple branches
To coral waves on an ocean apple green?

Stand at evening on a cool sand margin —
Powdered rock and the dust of seaweed and shells —
Desert the hypocritical rags of the city,
Raise our arms to the light of the naked stars?
Shall we not descend out of the shadows,
Walk through the ripples of saffron phosphorescence,
Quit the earth and glide through a crystal ocean,
Reach into the silence with languid arms,
Through the smooth water draw our gleaming muscles
Out of the feather of foam white powder of bubble?

How shall we live, how shall we draw our breath
Under the stagnant grey of a city sky?
How shall we turn aside from the sad, dead faces?
How shall we walk freely under the stars?
How shall we bathe in the sunlit windy places?
How shall we leave the walls of perpetual death?
Shall our dust be blown among them after we die?

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