What Rough Destiny . . .

I.

What rough and icy destiny

now leaves me limp and unable to fight,

but staring instead up at a cloud-filled sea?

Its name is as foreign to me as my pitiable plight,

this is the end, someone familiar is telling me,

insisting that I say farewell, instead of my usual goodnight.

 

But there is no one here, I press,

no one to whom I might confess,

someone who, over my sins might deign to sympathize,

or, although it is unlikely, at the very least,

someone to whom I might apologize,

but there is no wife, no friend, not even the insult of a priest.

 

II.

What duplicitous and twisting fate

introduces me now to this alien feeling,

too many years too many crimes too late,

finally after all this time revealing

the obvious but elusive mistake

that time was the only thing I was really stealing?

 

I am wheezing and wounded game

run down in the Master’s wood,

finally admitting that I have no name,

nor am I even master of the ground upon which I stood,

prey to lord and poacher alike,

as doomed as some feckless rabbit,

skewered and mounted upon the spike.

 

III.

What easily amused and fickle fortune

gazes down on me, implacable as the falling rain,

as I lay perforated and bleeding and left for dead,

my pockets as poached and empty as my gasping veins,

my skin as white as a plaster moon,

while I fight to stay awake

murmuring “too soon, too soon . . .”?

 

My history turns slippery: was there one final score,

one last chance to prove I didn’t need any more?

This I know: I despised my family and I disliked my friends,

I worked only when I had to, and always took what I’d need.

No means was so wicked it didn’t justify my ends,

no plea so plaintive it deterred me

from the inevitable and irrevocable deed.

 

IV.

What careless justice now accosts me

reminding me of someone I once knew,

a bill collector still owed his fee,

a friend sometimes, but an executioner too,

a single-minded fellow, a like-minded soul,

a ferryman at the river, come to collect the toll?

 

All my prior hungers are but a fading glimmer

compared to my need to know your name.

Bestow upon me this meager sliver,

so that I might contend it wasn’t all in vain.

Or will the final joke be the face in the mirror?

Would one of my victims say they saw the same?

 

V.

Weren’t we together for it all,

arm-in-arm and stride-for-stride?

Won’t you then join me for the fall,

so that when they come and see I’ve died,

they’ll see upon my face no fearful pall,

but the calm that declares that in the end

 

this man embraced his destiny

as if it were a friend,

that he caressed it as he would have done some mewling prey,

without pity or regret, without the coward’s considerate delay,

that he welcomed his fate, despite the fact it had always lied,

with arms that were in the end, in the face of it all,

still open wide?