(9th October,1981 / Leeds)

The Mouth Of Memory

You speak your truth as if immortal,
With rich man’s laugh and vagabond eyes,
While the antique hand of love betrays
The silent sufferers who solitary tread
Curses the surface of this earth alone.

A shadow of dark resource
Silhouettes precise their spiralling curve;
Though to own such protection should not become them:
Theirs is not a choice to hide;
They could not by a single-sword’s-swipe be King.

Stripped of the sweetness of life,
The years crowd unherded,
Until, at last, we come to stand
Upon the spot where Atlas shoulders his burden still,
And share with him in titanic redemption.

To herald the burning of the sky,
Rage in concert you aggrieved and stemmed;
Ascend against the assembly of ages
Whom men call judgement,
That they may bestow such pardon
As would change the course of the blowing wind
Which over your lives imparts
Such an awe of misunderstanding
That even to question is considered to sin.

Should he who cannot obey the words
Live only to regret them,
Then let the man whom from his own heart shrinks
Be guilty of no more a crime
Than simply that of mis-belief,
And so, experience’s teaching deny.
For, if the warrior were to quit his war,
Shall he still be celebrated?
Or will his victories be swallowed by the mouth of memory,
And he be forgotten a coward?

by James Whitworth

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