Come to this place where poets sing,
telling lies beyond imagining,
where Yeats’s plated fire burns
and Pound gathers strength
to flex his words; where Plato’s hands
are thickly veined, even as he writes,
his heavy-lidded eye half-closing.
Think once more of Eliot’s sound,
or the bruised paint on Blake’s angel wing:
Nebuchadnezzar becomes a beast,
claws scrabbling on the coloured ground.
These changes are not due to innocence
or love: Miguel Cervantes sips old wine,
tasting the rot in Panza’s teeth.
Hemingway didn’t drink to forget
the lies his lying soul left out; he drank
to foresee that last shotgun shout
the moment of his final awakening.
Oh, he woke too late with his head in flames:
he was old by then, and desperate,
unable to think with clarity.
- first appeared in Litnet (http://www.litnet.co.za)