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How will you look and what will you do when the basalt
tombs of the sorcerers shatter…?

—W.H. Auden, “Under Sirius”

She had a fear of hooligans
hid money in her bra
always took her vitamins
and loved to talk about the scar
from where they took some organ out. The jar
of her remains was sledged and pressed
to inlaid script on a walnut bar:
I am chased by the state of immediate yes.

Every day he calculates the gains
and losses of his stock. He knows the law
of averages and watches for the evidence
of fraud and computer error. In his craw
resides a rattle, born the day he saw
that awful film about a lottery. In his chest
gather minions of a tumulus star.
I am chased by the state of immediate yes.

Beware, says the astral guide, when choosing religion
or cursing it, for what you think is never far
from what will prove to be. The jinns
of your experience work hard to bar
the opposite of what you want. They war
eternally against the lies of no and less.
In the arriving of life, there is no disallow.
I am chased by the state of immediate yes.

The lines I sketch, the cards I draw
hold steady to my vision’s best,
expanding whatever I think I saw.
I am chased by the state of immediate yes.


The ballade (not to be confused with the musical ballad) is a fixed form from medieval and Renaissance France. It contains three eight-line stanzas and a four line envoi with a refrain at the end of each.

The rhythm of the final line had been rattling in my head for days and finally came to rest when I found Auden’s poem. I love the galloping urgency he conveys in only seventeen words.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015