Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Moist Lotus Open Along Acheron

photo by Timo Ketonen

A whelming if not overwhelming time. You'd think I would like a drug called Versed, but I didn't. When they pump you full of Versed and Fentanyl and then (later) tell you to go home and not make any major decisions, you have to wonder what they're imagining.

As somebody else must have said (please come forward mysterious personage), I'll cross that bridge when I jump off of it.

But things are fine: one is just rather tired of death and tubes and Versed. Flames shooting out the windows of the Old Executive Office Building, as though even the vice-president's walls were longing for release.

Goodbye, goodbye no more water, the fire next time. Or Mayakovsky: "In the church of my heart the choir is on fire!"

Indeed. Only a couple of weeks ago the title of an Alan Williamson poem had sent me spinning into the dictionaries: I had heard of psychopomps before, but somehow I had never been besotted with them.

Now I was, since the OED said they were "conductor[s] of souls to the place of the dead. Also, the spiritual guide[s] of a (living) person's soul; a person who acts as a guide of the soul."

And there was this, too, in the OED, from a letter of Rupert Brooke: "I, Hermes-like, am coming to fetch you psychopompically to Hell." Even if "the handsomest young man in England" (as Yeats called him) has not been kissed by time, this is a missive I'd dearly love to finish.

Because wasn't this what I was trying to be for Richard Nixon: his Charon, so that he might see (in Sappho's words, tr. Mary Barnard) "the moist lotus open / along Acheron"?

Surely I could not be as cruel as she was:

Rich as you are

Death will finish
you: afterwards no
one will remember

or want you: you
had no share in
the Pierian roses

You will flitter
invisible among
the indistinct dead

in Hell's palace
darting fitfully

I should be more cheerful by New Year's! Bah humbug, fellow curmudgeons.

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