Last Poem

i.m. Derek Mahon

We value them, the voices
that need us least, who speak
with honest subtlety
to ironies beyond us,
who slip our grasp and go
whistling down endless
celestial colonnades
of – no, not astral planes
where the dream-soul wanders,
but airport corridors,
bus stations, the Gare du Nord,
a beach house in Goa,
testing posterity
with promises to break.

Who wouldn’t picture you
somewhere refurbishing
your echo-chamber stanzas,
making Parnassus ring
with the clattering of a battered
Olympia, tricks of tone
and scrambled rhyme-schemes drawing
dry-eyed epiphanies
from Dionysian mysteries,
if you didn’t guard against
such hopes with the nonchalance
of complete despair
as against the sublime you almost
perfectly renounced …

All fade oblivionwards
That I can believe; still, when
our attitudes at last
become us, and we threaten
to stiffen into posture,
if nothing else your words
may release us into gesture –
or so I tell myself
as I scribble these rough numbers
and lay my little wreath:
I got to meet you, once,
and gave my name for silence
and ‘best wishes, Derek Mahon’.
My Life on Earth remembers.

The Well

So what. He told a lie. So what.
It explained a thing or two about a thing or two.
It wasn’t anything that somebody else would never do.
A little one. So what.

                        There’s a well –

He put it at the heart of things.
It just seemed to go right to the heart of things.
It seemed right, or just, to sing from the heart, or something.

                        There’s a well in this world –

He told a lie. He wore it like a mask.
He worked at it and later it worked him.
A little one. The first. Don’t ask.
It worked. Of course it worked. Don’t ask, don’t ask.

                        There’s a well in this world – should you drink from it,
                        your thirst will be worse than a curse. There’s a well –
                        O but it’s better not to think of it!
                        You’ll have to tell your friends –
                        they’ll thank you for it!

He drank. If you can call it a well.

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