Friday, March 30, 2012

A Tom Disch Poem

  The Library of America

It's like heaven: you've got to die
To get there. And you can't be sure.
The publisher might go out of business.
Or you yourself might not be good enough.
The vagaries of taste might swerve,
Suddenly, leaving you disaudienced.

Marquand. Aiken. cummings. Mailer.
What are their chances now, which once
Loomed so large? Ubi sunt, as they say
In France, while their language
Expires. It's sad, this transience
We share, but look on the bright side:

It makes us, even the snottiest,
Human, which is a good thing to be.
And, in any case, inalterable. We die,
Others occupy our premises, decide
They don't need so many bookshelves,
And redecorate. Every vanity

Will be deaccessioned, as Islam
Deaccessioned Alexandria. Ubi sunt.
Cling as you may, assert whatever claims,
Once you have fallen into the public domain,
There's precious little hope, and all that
Little is reserved for those who had no doubts.

The man who carved the Sphinx's nose:
What was his name again? For centuries,
Millennia, that nose was there, and now
It's not. We are—I am—like him
Ephemeral, a million Ozymandiases
Drifting about in a vast Sahara.

Sift those sands, you archeologists.
Number the shards of the shattered nose.
Reprint the words that once we shivered
To read, and annotate each line. Still,
When we die, we are certainly dead,
And only a few of our books will be read.

And then even those will be forgotten.


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