Arkhegetes

Todd Jackson

In Your Honor

As I am to die,
And between but a pinch of thy two fingers it is my honor to have been a man,
This night as each night, and at this moment when, half-round the arc of the Earth,
The plum light of dawn just now breaks above Delphi;
This night, too, I stand as much at attention as at prayer,
I stand in thanks to you,
Apollo of the piercing light,
Apollo who watches through the watchfulness of the crows,
I stand to thank you for those tools by which a mere man may come to his portion of dignity.
I drink my share while turning again to write, and by three I see my pages,
watch the black ink dry ash-black.
This is a moment. As my life is a moment. If
It is to be a moment held in suspense till my body crumbles with age,
It is still but a moment in your sight.
I look over America, laden with gifts.
Las Vegas glistens in this hollow along the broad Mojave, hard and bright with promise.
And yet it was not product of your particular action,
But of things underneath, laid by your hand, a pattern beneath the innumerable actions of innumerable selves,
Mortal selves, myself;
And among these actions, Las Vegas,
Which, no less than Washington,
was first an image dazzling one man’s eyes. As I am to die,
I thank you for this gift of pattern, by which dead men might sing to the unborn.
It is no bad thing if the dead be only dead, that there might be such song.

II.
I think the first of us to know you had seen his people
Dragged off, one by one, by the cats.
The old, granted,
But no child is safe.
He is simian with hunger, with.
No thought of When my child is grown,
None of things passed down.
His hands are empty.
With kinsmen, he can sometimes bring down meat
But there is no long standing by the meat
Before the cats arrive,
Walking proud across the land, big as small bulls.
To him, Apollo whispers principles
By which to slay the cats.
And He is in the grace of gesture, a grace hard won,
Not to shatter a flint, but to shave it fine.

III.
We walked the grass two hundred thousand years before the city rose.
At least at night, if the fire was high and red,
We might conspire upon things not tight round the corner,
But, as if whispering, upon things round the corner still after.
Over generations we chipped words bright alongside our arrowheads.
Within us, the new faith. That we are not animals.
And at daybreak, the Sun shone as though for us alone. It was we,
Among creatures, who best exploited the open daylight, with its long sightlines: We,
Who with Sunrise switched sides from game to hunter.
There were no places then toward which one might walk,
And so we reckoned our walking aimless.
Worker from afar,
How could we, yet unshorn, have perceived your working? —
— that we had become citizens.
Each time three men gathered upon a lion,
There, as mysterium, the city.
It was you who knew where the stone gate would rise above the grass.
Here, behind cut stone, to have one’s name.
When this tissue falters and can expel no life, I have had my name.
I will not slip off into nullity. Like an animal.
Though I am waste in a plot of earth, even that earth will be stamped mine.

IV.
Once only you knew the number of the stars.
Ie Paian! Now we know, too.
Easy, in a poem, to bemoan the day.
We needed a goodness to build this place,
And we needed sins.
I have been overland,
Washington to Los Angeles, pacing back and forth,
And I want more.
I revel in the power of my nation,
And I want more.
Rain, Thargelios,
You who cup an ocean in one palm.
Spread wide your fingers,
Leave us clean for the new work.
Cool wet beads in my eyebrows,
I will reopen my eyes to Night.
As for the first time, I will look upon the Moon.
I will witness that its shine is not its own,
But is the radiant shadow of the Sun.
I will witness that standing here I whirl about the Sun,
As does this mighty planet beneath my feet.
I will witness. That this Earth is exactly a planet,
And I exactly man.
I will witness. That we are strong together,
We, who each of us is to die.
We brandish a starfield all our own
Back upon the starry Night.
I whistle round the Sun,
And all else that whistles round the Sun
Will be land for our walking,
Even to the far places, to the clouds of ice and stone.
Rain, Thargelios.
Blast loose the angry fingers of the dead
That would clutch our feet.
Again, set the clock to zero for our walking.

 

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