My brother's face is not my face;
His eyes see things mine do not see,
And when I try to take his place
I'm stuck in his alterity.
I do not know what he has known.
I do not think his thoughts with him.
His father is my father. Though
He is not me, he is my kin.
Each other face I daily see,
Each gaze that pierces into pride,
Each face is still a mystery,
A space I cannot climb inside.
And yet I must begin each day
Before my brother's other face,
And hear my unknown sister say,
"Thou shalt not kill" with silent gaze.
And I must stand before a One
Who is not seen, with unseen face,
And yet is like all-knowing Sun
And stands in hated Stranger's place.
For my last Auden poem for the month, I have decided to fuse much of his poetry together in this homage to his work, great and humble alike. Along with the many famous, more memorable poems, Auden also wrote several poems which were kinds of collections of miniatures, poetic vignettes, sometimes sweet, sometimes stark and pointed. I have decided to pay tribute today to this, lesser-known side of his work. There are many poems which are referenced and which have inspired me in this poem – too many to name. The eagle-eyed Auden fan might like to spot them…it could be a fun weekend game…The first one has been done for you.
Audenesques Fate succumbs many a species; one alone jeopardises itself. (W.H. Auden, “Marginalia”) 1. Street congealed in traffic, I pause, sip long black and rest to ambient chatter in café. Music wafts love songs to Man and what singers know, I too concur: that all of this is somehow glorious – yet sullied; beautiful to blemished eyes: a rose which, pock-marked, attracts the trampling of eager feet. Love expressed in the rose; yet what expressed in the trampling? Feet powerful in the steps they tread? For now these surfaces must suffice; forget the oppositions or how short the long black lasts. You smoke; I should exercise we all spend too long in cars and every heart needs the exertion of bowing. Today it rains; though it is spring, the air smells just like winter. Forget, forget. The street will pass you by. Men on missions grab their drinks and go; wedding guests pause between “I do” and “Raise a glass.” 2. In the afternoon, he walks the dog. Things-to-do and e-mails blink; the stillness races. . . . Beside the library window, she sits, beanie-clad, smart phone in hand. In a world enclosed, she is unknown. . . . Books stay closed; computers flash. The world is coded and our souls do not know the code. . . . The sea gives up its silent pearls; Margetson on the toilet wall. She sells seashells by the seashore. . . . Who, then, are we? We who sit complacently before the street, eager to be remembered, eager to forget? . . . Home again, we smile, relieved: Your feet are clean, your steps may stop. The world has not touched you. 3. You saw it all, the dive on fifty-second street your window. Freud probed the mind, you probed the heart and found dirt within your own. . . . This is how it always is. The soul has countries where no ships can go. . . . Confucius says: the surface matters. Surfaces sometimes absorb but the gloss always reflects. . . . Inconstant, we wander. There are landscapes in your eyes which I would long to see. . . . It did not surprise you: you saw brothers whose hearts were mirrors; They saw no other eyes. . . . What then? Does the young man lounge with pride? Does the sun reveal our splendour? No sun today; splendour then must hide. . . . The Devil’s soothing voice, contextualised, conceals the fact that he hates the lot of us. 4. Pigeons coo because they can; the town-square is their friend. Where, stranger, is your home? . . . Civilisation stands where you left it: monuments to physics and and past’s worst indiscretions. . . . If goodness is forever, then perhaps you might explain the death of goodness in my mind. . . . Silence. Your footsteps deny the road. Pianos pirouette in time but your ears are a vacuum. . . . Statistics lie; the Devil is a determinist but Christ hung on a tree. . . . Although His Image, I betray the breath in me. Forgive, forgive. Wrath, pass me by. . . . The law is hidden in the gaze which says, Thou shalt not kill. I will arise and see.