The Passaic River is
on its journey to the sea by
in Paterson, New Jersey
that inspire poets,
lovers and photographers.
My screen shows
a couple on the bridge
we all pause
a moment –
I allow the water
to move them
ever so slightly,
then take the picture.
Here lies all that was once mortal.
An empty page of a short life.
He who wondered “Can death be sleep,
when life is but a dream?” now
knows more than we want to know.
John Keats’ tombstone in Rome
John Keats’ birthday was on Halloween. This poem was inspired by his tombstone. While caring for his brother who was dying of tuberculosis, John contracted the disease himself. He died in Rome early in 1821, at the age of 25. He had wanted his gravestone to carry this one beautiful line: “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water,” but his two closest friends added a message as a way to attack some of the poet’s critics. This has always stuck me as so very wrong. They added: “This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone.”
Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by?
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain’s to die.
How strange it is that man on earth should roam,
And lead a life of woe, but not forsake
His rugged path; nor dare he view alone
His future doom which is but to awake.
Sylvia Plath during a beach holiday in 1953, three years before she met Ted Hughes, and 10 years before her death. (photo from the Gordon Ames Lameyer Papers)
Even some who never read your poetry,
know about your suicide, troubled marriage, depression,
and life in the bell jar vacuum.
This cold day, I see you young,
a happy, blonde dream on a beach.
A young boy seeing visions around him –
God in the window, angels in trees –
writing them into poems and painting them.
In life, pictor ignotus, considered likely insane,
knowing that imagination is human existence itself.
William Blake “Christ in the Sepulchre, Guarded by Angels”
Poets of my youth are very old.
They walk with canes. They write poems
about the past, and read old poems
about love and sex that remind me
of the aromas in my grandparents’ house.