by Rafaël Newman
Beginnings are a theme for sages,
For adepts of our Golden Ages:
When the victuals were prodigious,
And division un-litigious—
Since the stores, in their abundance,
Rendered striving a redundance;
Why in gardens Paradisal
Our ancestors scorned reprisal
As they supped upon the flower
That was bounty, boon, and bower;
How dread Rome was born from zero
When a hapless, vagrant hero
Laid the fundaments imperial,
Having shunned the charms venereal
Of a likewise diasporic
Queen of Carthage, prehistoric;
That the very Earth we tread on,
Raise our children, earn our bread on,
Once was spoken into being
By a deity all-seeing,
Whose division was prodigious—
Not, however, un-litigious.
But what of endings? Here, the sagas
Do not similarly drag us
As with stories of our sources
Fueled by beneficial forces,
But are suddenly laconic
On the closing of our chronic.
Sure, there’s Books of Revelation,
Ragnarök, the soul’s purgation,
Rapture, doomsday, resurrection:
Yet a certain circumspection
Veils our weaning from the bosom
Of this common macrocosm.
And no wonder! Since we all share
Some reminders of the place where
We gestated, but are clueless
Re: the place we’re bound when, shoeless,
We are borne on bier or barrow
To the exit, dark and narrow.
Our departure is less tribal
Than our advent in the Bible;
For, though we arrive collective,
Going hence, we’re more…subjective.
As instruct us these decedents,
Whose retirements offer credence
To the thesis here presented:
That our ending is segmented.
In the twelve-month just concluded,
Of the sev’ral stars occluded
We lament one supernova,
La divina Gruberová,
And one rhapsodist beyond rhyme,
Multitasker Stephen Sondheim.
Add to such regrets melodious
Further tidings incommodious:
Christa Ludwig, Bernard Haitink—
Both haff gone, at time of writink!
Charlie Watts and Lee “Scratch” Perry,
Chick Corea, Supreme Mary;
Bunny Wailer, Marley’s drummer,
Who was there that fateful summer
When a heatwave slowed the rhythm,
And from ska rose reggae with ‘em!
Tschüss Frau Béjarano—Esther—,
Who survived the dread Orchester
And went on to lend her vocals
To the good fight, far and local.
And—how shall we dance sirtakis
Absent kyrios Theodorakis?
These are the music-makers vanished,
To non-being last year banished…
But the scriveners, too, lost members
Twixt Sylvester and December:
Janet Malcolm, the assassin
Of one Jeff Moussaieff Masson;
Eric Carle, the larva’s Boswell;
Jean-Luc N., Lacan’s apostle;
Zagajewski and Mayröcker,
M.-C. Blais, life’s awry on-looker;
bell hooks, her nom de plume writ small,
Whose work was capital withal;
El Saadawi, Egypt’s Beauvoir,
Ferlinghetti, urban book czar;
And, alas, we grieve Joan Didion,
Who quarried gems from the quotidian.
Nor was Thalia unbloodied
In the period here studied:
N. Macdonald and C. Plummer,
Both Canucks, and, more’s the bummer,
One more with them, Jean-Marc Vallée:
To each of whom av’ atque val-eh.
Messrs Segal, Asner, Beatty,
Yaphet Kotto—not from Haiti,
Though he played a Carib baddie—:
All were claimed by Nobodaddy.
Cloris Leachman, rude and raucous,
Mesdames Tyson and Dukakis;
Betty White, First Lady of TV,
Exit stage left, shy of a century;
B. Tavernier, J.-P. Belmondo,
M.K. Williams, who was known to
“Wire” fans as Omar Little:
None received from Death acquittal.
For the rest, there was a trade-off.
Rumsfeld, Powell, Flynt and Madoff,
Fritzes Mondale and de Klerk died,
Phil the Prince, who had his jerk side:
We weren’t nonplussed to see them all go—
But not Desmond Tutu also!
Thus, for all we’re born in chorus,
Yet we die like those before us:
Each in thrall to private fortune,
Though the augurs we importune.
All go singly to the egress,
Without hope of stay or redress.
Let us pray, then, for the prudence
Socrates showed with his students
When they ringed his deathbed wailing,
And he told them they were ailing:
He himself was on the mend now,
As he neared his ordained end now,
And pledged piously, un-sickened,
To Asklepios—a chicken.
But although we’re not infinite,
We need not depart this minute,
And can stretch our little portion
With a minimum of torsion:
By submitting to the dictum
That prevents us falling victim
To the latest iteration
Of our current devastation.
For though we owe the god a rooster,
We owe ourselves—another booster.