A Vision of the Ways of Despair
By James Como – New York, New York, USA - 19 February 2012
There winding down the hill came the pageant,
a jumble of horns blowing and folk singing their happiness,
with gamboling leaps and tumbles, and animals cavorting
(a tiger walked on its hind legs), and the rumble of big drums
keeping time to the gladness. Whence they came I knew not.
And aglow on that gentle, curving slope the noon sun,
too, did its part on a fall day, with benedictions
of warmth and glory and bright color -- deep blue, and flaming red,
and a golden yellow -- careering through clouds, slanting to rest
here and there, at play with the luminescent green, stirring the multitude to
a radiance almost beyond the forbearance of my sight.
Yet I could see well one tall man who wore a purple tunic
holding with gloved hand his sword by its blade as he walked,
the hilt out in front of his face, and a girl with both child and a silly smile
there next to him, her arms filled with roses.
I smelled the flowers afar but could not recognize the man or the woman.
Others? How many I cannot know, but there were very many:
why, whole households drank from favorite teacups, as they carried beds
with old people sitting up in them, laughing the while as they talked!
From down in the meadow where I stood I could only stare,
and I became thrilled and frightened and also happy, beyond myself even,
when, over my left shoulder, I heard a plaintive wail, melodious and spare.
So I turned. I saw the struggle of flesh against flesh and glinting blades
and men and women in frozen poses hurtling through the air, careening
each with the other as in a rout. And yet I was not startled or dismayed.
So I turned the other way, and over my right shoulder I saw a strange
darkness, not a mist or a fog but a cold, calm gloaming that made everything --
people, and the rocks and dirt of the earth, the crumbling shanty dwellings --
all grey. And I saw that, as dark as it was, it was getting darker still.
I was not saddened by the sight. Then I looked ahead again, with a start.
The parade, with all its glimmering jubilation, had moved much faster than I thought,
Or had I looked away much longer than I thought?
For there it was, coming towards me straight, straight at me, like a giant tusk,
as though its purpose all along had been to impale me with its raucous glee:
If I did not move it would pierce my heart.
And I became more frightened, only frightened, overcome by dread.
But I could not remember whence they came. So I withdrew,
slipping back into the lowering dusk, now near black, and the tumult passed.
And still I watched from the darkness til all the folk were gone, with their music
and with their happiness and with their joy. Then, recovering myself,
I turned my back and was spared. Now the sun, too, was gone, and I felt safe again.