After Anthony Hecht’s ‘Double Sonnet’
While I sit writing, just a fragrant trace
Confirms your presence. Easy to distract,
I want to look, intent to hold intact
This aeon that the seconds will displace;
But no one lingers in a perfect place
And Eden’s gates invariably reject
All but the simple, mindlessly elect,
Who live, unknowing, in a state of grace.
I know the story of that bard from Thrace,
Who went to hell, compelled to resurrect
Eurydice; but, driven to reject
The king’s injunction, failed (the sage advice—
Keep walking forward at a steady pace).
I know perfection is a chance effect
Of uninflected being, that to reflect
Will break the mirror that preserves your face . . .
And yet I turn, and in that turn commence
The path of loss that leads towards the sun
And all time’s Maenads, there, will tear apart.
Your face recedes into that blank, immense
Future where all the futures are undone.
Though song may briefly soften Hades’ heart,
And words distract him from indifference;
Death has, all said, a short attention span.
Still, some brief comfort lies in lying art.
Perhaps that other Greek was speaking sense:
‘The upward and the downward path are one.’
I turn again, and turning make my start . . .