Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, COLLOQUE METAPHYSIQUE, by BABETTE DEUTSCH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

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First Line: One said: / the mountains comfort me
Last Line: On darker waters, then.
Alternate Author Name(s): Yarmolinsky, Avrahm, Mrs.
Subject(s): Conversation

One said:
The mountains comfort me,
bulking their storm-heaped question against the sky.
All things are sentient: cities and vain tides
cry with my human cry:
Whose chaos was our womb?
What is this dark smell of oblivion? --
The foam, a moment stable in my hand,
the glass-eyed fish, creatures that crawl and fly,
and the brute pavement,
these too comfort me,
these too abide the hopeless, hammering Why?
And one said:
Your question dangles like a tongueless bell.
Does purpose, then, hold in men's lives so well
that there must be some purpose in an earth
which litters tragedy with every birth?
Your only ladder is your reason, --
But it must lean against a wall as high
as the impenetrable sky,
whose thickness is all that we know of time.

The third one said:
You seem an alien, being comforted
by the dumb mountains and the rootless sea.
Not all the lovers who on unquiet beds have sucked their bitter joy
can comfort me
because my pain is colored like their own.
As pigs who huddle in a sty
are warmed by their familiar stench,
all those who breathe and suffer and must die
may let a cemetery satisfy
their instinct for a home. This self-same earth
is plough-land and worm's vomit and man's trench.

And you
who will not watch that bell in the dumb air
of a world that may have neither pause nor end, --
I know you borrowed patience from despair
till you have some to lend.
Stand on the ladder's topmost rung and find
a street where blind men grope to see the blind,
trace traffic on a lighted drawbridge, thrown
from the unknown across to the unknown.
There is no peace, there is no comfort here,
But a thin bulwark of theatres and wars
thrown up between our terror and the stars.
When we seem safe, we are still afraid of fear.
Talk is a windy thing that clears
the fog above these yeasty years,
but we shall seldom talk of this again;
for let the winds, the winnowers, blow
our mists away, we needs must go
on darker waters, then.

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