They Came Down from the High and Low Places


they threaded themselves along
through the intricate threadings,
the ancient ones and the new ones,
all the famous were among them,
all the shining stars,
all the historical glory-grabbers, the great thieves,
all the inventors with their psychological quirks,
the nobodies came as well, the flowing multitudes of the anonymous,
the endless dissatisfied housewives, authoritative bureaucrats,
gas-station attendants and couples with no children,
philanthropists and the workaholics,

they came through the sandy pass,
faces were indistinguishable, differences unnoticed,
naked they came and assembled,
fear for their own state kept their eyes on the ground,

they came and made ranks,
the noble and notable next to the hardened criminal,
the saint in his glow next to the shrew in her darkness,
all the Chinese came, all the Australian Aborigines,
some who had never been clothed came,
and some who had never been out of them,

important socialites were bereft of their diamonds,
the scholar with references bereft of his briefcase,
the policeman with his beer-belly pitched on his heels,
the priest with his miter now gone, lost in a haze,

well-known faces recognized in the earthly crowd
were lost in the mass now, shaded by the one standing next to it,

no Rolls-Royce stood ready for the king,
his feet made dust-prints with the rest,
no helicopter hovered to take the millionaire away,
he felt the weight of his reconstituted body now with the rest,

as they awaited the setting-up of the scales,
as humanity assembled on the plain under a blinding sun
and awaited the judgment to fall

that would decide each one’s place.

Even the sainted were afraid, the ones whose hearts
glowed like a sunrise
through the transparency of their rib-cages,
even they were covered in sweat to their eyebrows,
the camel-drivers of the edge,
the caravan-leaders at the margins of the earth,
the destitute, delicate, daring hearts who
stayed up nights calling out in hope
and spiritual derangement,

they took their places in this place of no-place
and awaited the click that would tell all,
the sinking or rising of the pan
with the light or heavy scales registering
the forever of their moments
lengthened out now along a line

visible from the beginning to the end of each life
like a straight narrative, or a string with knots in it.

No flaws in the universe,
and the universal memory has no lapses.

Each dwarf or giant of sensibility and care
came to the jamboree

at the beginning of Eternity
and wondered in its echoes

what its final fate would be.

The Chronicles of Akira #1 (from Sparrow on the Prophet’s Tomb)

Categories: Poems, Death