PAVANE FOR A DEAD PRINCESS
“...suicides do not form, as might be thought, a wholly
distinct group, an isolated class of monstrous phenomena.”
They will find her near the seventh green,
The early morning golfers, awake now—
Her knees close enough to stand if she’d
Had a mind to—and I wonder if the last thought
Of the suicide is about being found—a consideration
Of backdrop and color, of a drained face framed
By pines at first light? No, I don’t think
The suicide bothers with the strutting artist’s need
To make beauty a first instinct, nor with the ass—backwards
Theorist’s substitution of a fixed and smiling intelligible image
For any dirty and complex transitoriness.
She hangs heavily and the greens are damp—
The traps gape and the hazy water threatens the score.
My son, not yet five, sees no reason why
Squirrels have to die—and pities them into
Everlasting consolation: “They awake in heaven,”
He tells me. Somehow he knows already that some deaths
Cannot be fixed except by imaginary fiat—
He is unaware of the fracture of pity and imagination—
I shrug gamely at the forces which are,
He subjects all to a tender wish—
Lays all heaven’s gold beneath the feet of a bloody, furry mess.
Perhaps some suicides want us to imagine what’s wrong—
Stop the idiot game, and startle us into pity.
That is the only way poetry and suicide are alike—
Suicide is not collectible art, nor is it a proposition.
It holds in abeyance the aesthetic and rational mind—
It demands the surprise of pity.
We are all golfers on the seventh green,
About to chip seriously something somewhere—
What will we make of this kneeling girl,
Too love-famished to stand up, whose bruised
Throat grew too tired of un-tenderness?