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Collected Poems

Elegy at Month's End

page 135

Elegy at Month's End

(For James K. Baxter)

Held at bay by the hailstorm, hound of Heaven,
On this bitter day in the murk of the small back bar,
The sump of Hell,
My spirit yearns for the realm where the Blessed are,
Remembering now in the depths of my pocket's eclipse
My hey-day, pay-day joy, remembering the seven
Angelic shapes, red-banded, foam at their lips,
And the twelve on the shell.

Came one who knocked at the door: the Beast it was;
His eyes were slag-pits brimmed with Time's grey ashes,
A cosmic rubble;
Then two came clothed in dun, their mouths thin gashes
On the breast of love, their dewlaps' wrinkled skin
Like the flesh of old bulls put to grass because
They are done. And I said to myself, The duns are in
And I am in trouble.

Then I looked in the small black book where the list of names
And the numbers are, of those who sometimes may be
Good for a loan.
But all were featherless, bare as the bum of a baby,
I had plucked them one by one in the times of torment,
The blonde, the black, the bald, old friends, old flames—
All, all had taught me the sorrow a bolted door meant,
Hung up on the 'phone.

So here I make do with dog's-nose consolation,
Commune with my Muse, that brass-bound, big-mouthed wench
Who never is short
Of a rhyme, or a canto. Here on this penitent bench
I sit in the reek of Hell, with the lost all about me,
Praying to God that he grant me a whiff of damnation,
Praying that Peter the Barman at last will shout me
An invalid port.