March 28, 1941
Whom did you leave behind, Virginia,
When the voices summoned you
Into the river and you strode down,
Stout stones filling the pockets of your overcoat?
Who was this quiet man who shielded you
From the world and its vagaries,
Until the world in his absence
Stormed the unguarded walls of your mind?
Who was this docile man who loved you
More than most men’s pride would let them,
Proposing three times before at last
Receiving your reluctant, laughing consent.
Who was this trembling man who fought
So firmly and steadfastly for your love?
Did he feel he had won, between all the losses,
First to you, then to Vita, and then to the voices?
Did he find solace in the note you left,
Or instead in a kitchen printing press,
An arm-load of books, a turban and blackface,
And a now-broken circle of friends?
“Nothing matters, ” he said, “and everything matters.”
So, was his life spoiled or was it fulfilled
The day before he found your cane
By the banks of the River Ouse?