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Bokardo

by
 Well, Bokardo, here we are; 
Make yourself at home.
Look around—you haven’t far To look—and why be dumb? Not the place that used to be, Not so many things to see; But there’s room for you and me.
And you—you’ve come.
Talk a little; or, if not, Show me with a sign Why it was that you forgot What was yours and mine.
Friends, I gather, are small things In an age when coins are kings; Even at that, one hardly flings Friends before swine.
Rather strong? I knew as much, For it made you speak.
No offense to swine, as such, But why this hide-and-seek? You have something on your side, And you wish you might have died, So you tell me.
And you tried One night last week? You tried hard? And even then Found a time to pause? When you try as hard again, You’ll have another cause.
When you find yourself at odds With all dreamers of all gods, You may smite yourself with rods— But not the laws.
Though they seem to show a spite Rather devilish, They move on as with a might Stronger than your wish.
Still, however strong they be, They bide man’s authority: Xerxes, when he flogged the sea, May’ve scared a fish.
It’s a comfort, if you like, To keep honor warm, But as often as you strike The laws, you do no harm.
To the laws, I mean.
To you— That’s another point of view, One you may as well indue With some alarm.
Not the most heroic face To present, I grant; Nor will you insure disgrace By fearing what you want.
Freedom has a world of sides, And if reason once derides Courage, then your courage hides A deal of cant.
Learn a little to forget Life was once a feast; You aren’t fit for dying yet, So don’t be a beast.
Few men with a mind will say, Thinking twice, that they can pay Half their debts of yesterday, Or be released.
There’s a debt now on your mind More than any gold? And there’s nothing you can find Out there in the cold? Only—what’s his name?—Remorse? And Death riding on his horse? Well, be glad there’s nothing worse Than you have told.
Leave Remorse to warm his hands Outside in the rain.
As for Death, he understands, And he will come again.
Therefore, till your wits are clear, Flourish and be quiet—here.
But a devil at each ear Will be a strain? Past a doubt they will indeed, More than you have earned.
I say that because you need Ablution, being burned? Well, if you must have it so, Your last flight went rather low.
Better say you had to know What you have learned.
And that’s over.
Here you are, Battered by the past.
Time will have his little scar, But the wound won’t last.
Nor shall harrowing surprise Find a world without its eyes If a star fades when the skies Are overcast.
God knows there are lives enough, Crushed, and too far gone Longer to make sermons of, And those we leave alone.
Others, if they will, may rend The worn patience of a friend Who, though smiling, sees the end, With nothing done.
But your fervor to be free Fled the faith it scorned; Death demands a decency Of you, and you are warned.
But for all we give we get Mostly blows? Don’t be upset; You, Bokardo, are not yet Consumed or mourned.
There’ll be falling into view Much to rearrange; And there’ll be a time for you To marvel at the change.
They that have the least to fear Question hardest what is here; When long-hidden skies are clear, The stars look strange.

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