Poetry: Transit Visa | clivejames.com
[Invisible line of text as temporary way to expand content column justified text width to hit margins on most viewports, simply for improved display stability in the interval between column creation and loading]

Transit Visa

He had not thought that it would be his task
To gauge the force of the oncoming wave
Of night; to cast aside his jester’s mask,
Guessing it was not Ali Baba’s cave
That would engulf him, but an emptiness
Devoid of treasure heaped to serve his dreams;
His best hope, to be set free from distress.
No guiding light, not even moonlight beams,
Will lead him forward to find life refined
Into a fit reward or punishment:
No soul can well continue when the mind
Fades with the body. All his store is spent
Of pride, or guilt, or anything that might
Have steeled him for the non-stop outbound flight

Were it to lead somewhere, but it does not.
That much becomes clear as the sky grows dark.
He hears the rattle of his childhood cot,
The rain that fills the creek that floods the park:
But these are memories. The way ahead
Will send no messages that can be kept.
One doesn’t even get to meet the dead.
You planned to see the bed where Dido slept?
No chance. It didn’t last the course. Back then
They forged the myths that feed our poetry
Not for our sake, but theirs, to soothe them when
Life was so frightful that death had to be
A better place, a holiday from fear.
But now we know that paradise is here,

As is the underworld. To no new dawn
He gets him gone, nor yet a starry hour
Of silence. He goes back to being born
And then beyond that, though he feels the power
Of all creation when he lifts a book,
Or when a loved face smiles at his new joke,
Which could well be his last: but now just look
At how the air, before he turns to smoke,
Is glowing in the window. If the glass
Were brighter it would melt. That radiance
Is not a way of saying this will pass:
It says this will remain. No play of chance
From now on includes you. The world you quit
Is staying here, so say goodbye to it.