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Bad Times

ISSUE:  Winter 1941

Each season knows its own despair: the child Wading in woe, suddenly overwhelmed By one wave with all ocean at its back,
The child under the mounting comber of His own ignorance and lack.
Though he loves everything the shore can show,
The empty shell’s fine whorl, the weed-wreathed wood,
Sand that warmly sucks his finger and Heaps turbaned white Saharas, pearl on pearl—
His joy is soon deceived, his labors drowned.
His hands are empty,
He cries,.in the dark,
For what no morning ever can restore.
Each season knows its own despair: the young Under the flowering trees, among Monuments of the stone-buttoned great,
The young solitary in disgrace With love, his futile hopes untold,
The others, breathing honeyed air, their paces Slowed by a tenderness too big to hold;
They are pierced by all they see,
The stained street, the new-leaved tree Sharpened to their hungry sight By impossibility,
Since time’s encroachments or the thuggish war Will snatch what no late wisdom can restore.
Each season knows its own despair: the old
Before the table of their memories,
Compelled to eat that faded fare.
The board is loaded, but what good
From such savorless luxury?
And he who pushes back his food
Thinking he hears an entering step,
May face beyond the window all
The terror of the hollow night,
Or worse, may lift his welcoming look
To find that there is nothing there,
The banquet and the banqueters are ghosts,
And he has lost
A dream the longest sleep will not restore.
Each season knows its own despair: Who reach the plateau of the middle years Have some pity for the child,
But scorn the young man’s tears,
And know mad envy of the old.
For they have learned that waves destroy Not toys alone, but ships and men;
Again and yet again They have seen winter melt To spring, that frees the fields for war;
And each has torn his heart upon The things he did and left undone,
And hates the unregenerate mind That he must carry to the end.
The beckoning hills are now behind,
The dull dusk crowds more and more The shore on which a child once played,
The street that youth would saunter on With gay dawn for companion.
Perhaps, he thinks, the old are satisfied Who have foregone all pride Save in the feast that memory can spread.
But few prepare
The dishes for that ghostly supper fit.
None looks for wholesome eating any more.
The faceless evil stands beyond the door.
In vain man’s heart Still reasons with despair.


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