A glosa, which borrows a quatrain from Wyston Hugh Auden
Here on dark nights while worlds of triumph sleep
Lost Love in abstract speculation burns,
And exiled Will to politics returns
In epic verse that makes its traitors weep.
—W.H. Auden, “The Quest”
We flew the puddle jumper to Jerusalem
from Tel Aviv; I sat in 7C, beside me dozed
a Nazarene who woke the moment that I wondered
what his business was. Eyes sprung ope’, he looked
at me as if I’d shouted in his ear. You’ve come in
search of peace on earth, said he? To scour deep
Judeo-Sufic whims in hopes your wisdom to explore
and sanctify? Um, I said, I won this trip for writing
of sweet memories poetically that I would keep
here on dark nights while worlds of triumph sleep.
And you? I asked him cautiously. A funeral, said he,
for one who’s not yet died. At this, his eyes betwinkled
and the T-word never mentioned on an airline came
to me. I dropped my pen to check his shoes. He laughed.
I’m here for you, he said, and you for me—‘twas ever thus,
‘twill ever be. For everything that aggravates returns,
and you can push politically or you can dive poetic. One
destroys, the other elevates, depending on the hand that
throws, prevailing winds and pressures. Who yearns,
lost Love in abstract speculation burns.
A certain kind of loving is not kind; it merely pours
attention on neglected spaces, that achieved, moves
on, a vagabond, in search of new va—I held my breath—
varieties, he said. Attributed to men, but women do it too,
and if you stay among these types, they’ll whittle down
your wishes to their manageable size. Their measly spurns
you’re best to celebrate, for Heaven waits upon the
glad and grandiose, while Hell—he scratched his ample
belly as we flew toward the Dome, it never learns
and exiled Will to politics returns.
I saw him later, walking on the road to Bethlehem, falafel
wrapped in pita in his hand. It’s awful, don’t you think,
he said, the way we boomerang when we could just
as easily decide to wish the best for everyone and glide?
I’ve tried, I said. But therein lies the tragedy, replied
the Nazarene. Who told you there is glory in the steep,
would rather see you disobey, find in your heart the lighter
way—and in that instant rang a shot. He fell, I tried to catch
him, but an arm yanked me away. He visits me in sleep,
in epic verse that makes its traitors weep.
© Elaine Stirling, 2012