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Picking over the Bones
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2013-10-20 12:26:05
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Dilapidation is the earth's sucking love.
That's what you learned here today, high up.
Take heart.

One has lived with them since schoolboy days.
Your love for these ruins is at last fulfilled.
After fifty years you finally came here, and then arrived,
Saw and touched what they must have seen and touched
In that Golden Age, in the Springtime of the World.

All that is left are hints, old bones, bare bones,
Things worn down and leveled with the Earth itself.
Left out in the rain and wind like that century after century,
What else would you expect?

One's concentrated eye falls upon the fallen and desiccated remains
And searches for the beauty from those times.
Attempting to sense here her shadows and soft edges,
Her subtleties of feeling, seducing and implicating.

The long course of your lingering life led to this.
The span of a body's purchase on the earth.
Nothing lasts forever.  Unlovely and halting now, frayed, discolored,
Your decomposing self leads itself among the detritus of a whole civilization,
Whose dramas, and passions, and forms and dreams are so very dear to you.

These sad, these crippled, worn and pock-mocked pillars,
And arches, and pieces of walls, and pieces of roofs, and pieces of pieces,
Lay down, dead, have lain here, waiting for you, all this long time.
One lingers over them, and looks intently, and bends over them,
And strokes them, caressing imagined memories, and the vagaries of fate.
Vagaries of fate, and varieties of purpose, and decay and loss.

We come in envy of a better time, we come in awe and envy.
So here, now, at long last, a traveler, a visitor, one walks amid the ruins
An Empire's heart lies jumbled before us, a carpet of stones.
One bends the knee, down to inspect, to touch, to read the signs and explanations, inquisitive,
Eager for explanations, speculations, approximations, or a construal, or a reconstruction. 


These monuments to the dead who are known to no one —
Their provenance is the reason one loves them.
You have finally brought to pass your dream of fondling these bones,
To contact their demon force, that guardian of the secret
Of the central riddle of why we bother to go on living.

But the ruins themselves do not discriminate.  They say little.
Only a few tombs from these generations stand, still.
The dry sun commands all.  Birds wheel above, silent, seemingly respectful…
Why tears for these departed?  They are not yours, or are they?
Even these, even these greatest ones, how would they view us if they saw us here?
And what exactly does it mean that we are kneeling here?

The gods have fled, or been killed off.
The youthful world has aged and dried up.
The world is every day drying up, always is.
The terrifying urge to (like a pillar) simply lie down.
The terrible cost of breath to ascend, and stand, tall, in this desiccating Sun.
The desire to cease, simply sit, and simply dwell, and look away, off to the sea.

As if the winds and waters were not enough,
Waves of barbarians set themselves to the desecration of the graves.
Themistocles spoke to them from out his deep tomb:
"Do not destroy this resting place, hallowed by my bones!"
They looked at one another and laughed.
They could not understand his tongue, and took the voice for a demon's,
And wrecked the tomb all the faster, and gave the bones to dogs, each individual one.
The dogs got sick on them and died, and then the wanderers wandered away and then they died.

But, the beauty of it all!
Even if only imagined!
Especially because imagined!
Take heart!

Hold the present at bay,
So long as your old torso, arrived from so far away,
Can creak and bend all day,
And reverently lightly linger here for many a day,
Breathing this ambiance, breathing here the vitality that holds sway,
Soaked in the mystical cobalt rays of this silent, hard and splendid sky.


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