On The Verge

Poem By Thomas Edward Puleston Rickarby

On the verge, beside the frame, a mocking jay returns refrains. Above the way, fixed in the sky, a crow is bleating. No other sight has caught these birds, dancing in their constant flight from one another. As sunlight quells the darkened crests of mountain-walls and makes them right, I wander forth. Each step a way, by worlds I pass, thinking that if it can't be done, then it doesn't matter whether stopped by sleight of mind or hand of God. I seek time-honoured means to slough the lust: a pint, a place where people make a fuss and dance. The trap of death forgotten, the door askance, they lift each other with worn hands and faces. New rituals have swept the cities, but I confess that these seem weaker game than books in hands, or names remembered, dreamt up to turn the handle, to wind up love, like a key in the head. Hold fast, we plead, each unspeaking, don't pass onto those wider paths. Stay here, see me, in this room we'll clear away the dust and ash. Not knowing how or why it works to skim the skin, to mouth the words, going slow for fun, as we are lost, as waves do crash on flat cold sand. I'll fight the men that come to close the curtains, seal the doors, position our bodies in deep red coffins and send us back beneath the earth. But first, we must learn: are they imagined? Are they a myth to keep our lives at work, in order? To salve the cuts of harsher lovers we pray to never see again? To live forever, what a curse! To never fully know forgetting, yet worse to know there's nothing that can stop the burst of thoughts that plunge us like those birds that dive the cliff to pierce the surf, to snatch another morsel of some mortal thing; we demand to live like kings and queens. The thing is to be unafraid of living as one waits, to find at last a land where one can stay, a landscape where no pain stands in the way. At least to live until our feet can walk without the fear our heavy heads will force a slip, 'til we can sleep with faith another day will lift and will not be a weight. At least until we learn there's no escape.

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