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Death of This Death

ISSUE:  Spring 1941

Death of this death
Bring yet another orchid for the corpse Whose beauty, taut in uniform, must fail As soon as morning’s casual eye usurps The vigil-light; not rouge, not even oil Under the poet’s or the painter’s touch,
Not the archaic leech,
May mask or purify that fact of death Whose monied hunger and omniscient breath Contaminates the living in our time;
Here lies the surgeon’s dream And the apologist’s pretext—whose fame In portraits, skyline and museum, smiles (Fatal as the cancer and as out of reach) Its mummified determination, while Diplomat and novelist confer Upon its bones and hair;
Then to our shrouded libraries there come Those godlike reasons for both war and slum.
The necromantic past is gone, and gone
The warm protection of stupidity;
King Charles and every gay death’s head is done,
The sugar skulls stare on antiquity;
Yet we are learned every way with dust,
Ingeniously blessed
With ardor and defiance for the grave;
That subtle precinct garners all our love Who, timorous, warned of mortal consequence,
Choose death like a romance.
But O the young whose open willing hands
Blueprint a shoal of cities, dare to turn
From smoking acres of the dispossessed
To meet life’s penalty.
Their eyes have seen
The possible dominion of the free,
A calm community
That, flowering in the culture of decay,
Turns death to seed within our living day.


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