When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe. —Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
We know these columns, this pediment, angels and sages serene as stone stand at attention, embodiment of past grandeur, for this we’ve come, to see the marble men and maids, the attic shape, the heifer’s march, the ancient truth that met Keats’ gaze and fired his poems that light the dark
knowledge of our mortal being, sing the song of fleeting time, the static creatures we are seeing live and breathe in his sweet lines. The poem endures, though Keats is dust. All remains unchanged but us.
Here in the basement of the Espresso Royale on Sixth Street in this land grant university town, amid English Fog lattes and keypad-clatter, in the afternoon before the all-hallows-eve in which Katie, a great-great-et-cetera granddaughter of the townswoman they hanged for the crime of witchcraft, will play a game—homo ludens— of volleyball against the maize-and-blue Michigan Wolverines I draft a missive to the good citizenry of Dorchester as though they might yet happen upon these words, as though their revivified selves were a short gallop from this latitude and longitude, as though their sins of omission and commission might still be forgiven— not just forgotten—by an act of penance that includes a pilgrimage to tonight’s venue and a maniacal cheering for this descendent as she executes (I didn’t invent the language) a perfect play that culminates in (really, I didn’t) a kill. Full stop because I don’t know how to end this letter. So I do what I always do: continue breaking lines and staggering down the page until it’s time to witness more volleyball and cheer like nothing else ever happens or matters.
No longer priest, he saves it as that one necessary cry to bless or curse in some wide-eyed moment of nightmare or victory, kept among words needed for the short breaths, last lines, those door-slamming, throat-closing, consonantal end-words cried in rage, pain, or love’s ecstasy . . . down, down to this one word left in heart’s chamber kept secret like a last saved bullet: God!