Sundering Times


In false promise I’d fain have drunk
Th’ immortal milk of man’s peaches.
I kissed thy cheek, charging self
In holy love. Here I swore ’t,
Cut a covenant, to succour thee and t’ uphold:
Thou ’rt my kin, Christ’s by faith.
I told the tale, with tears in my lungs,
Asking my memory: Have I in this time
Been useful to you? As the years slip by,
I see them release the swarms of locusts
Laying waste the lands barren,
But a wet welkin wails moisture
That falls until Takla-Makan:The sandy cold desert in the Tarim Basin of East Turkestan in China, whose name means something to the effect of “go in and you’ll never come out.” Sometimes, when rain falls, it evaporates before it reaches the ground.
Vapours all, vaults empty,
Watered as if dry, dreaming of bounty:
After a battle, the old, ossified,
Fallen bodies lie buried in mud.
Yea, bones grow weak, blood dyes
Fields with carmine, and craven men
Chase these rubies, rioting for glory;
ink blots, blood spills:
And so for renown they seek to move
Their seats and roofs – t’uproot themselves!
I’ve not done this, but nothing makes
A split to see: seas churning,
Peoples raging, I’m pulled from the earth
Will or not, my wind spent out
On breathless rocks, rent my voice
From the air of my throat. Throttled is reason
And drowned in gall, drunk the people
To swallow Earth in swollen caprice.
How turns the mind? In tryfling demands.
I leave, I pass: plans are vanquished
T’ outrageous flight in flighty times.
A sad farewell, a silent death.
But we lift Death’s end; love unquenchable
Hides our hearts, to hope until
The faded world flower like Eden,
Grace-gladdened in glory anew,
When God unites beneath and above,
All things in him, in heav’n and in earth,
A peace thrust through in painful birth.

4 thoughts on “Sundering Times

  1. All right, I really wasn’t keen on making footnotes, but I should say something to your question, so here goes.

    On one level, peaches are a Chinese symbol of immortality. The Monkey King in Journey to the West, in one instance, was punished for trying to steal the peaches of blessed immortality from the court of the Jade Emperor.

    Most basically I’m contrasting man to God, which I highlight in the alliteration between immortal and [mortal] man. The peaches, which can be taken as the fruit of the Tree of Life, must come from God and not from man’s efforts to win access to some Fountain of Youth, Juan Ponce de León’s Floridian exploration notwithstanding.

    But in the other sense of man, as the counterpart of woman, such a quest is particularly futile. If peaches are metaphors for human breasts from which come milk for the thirst of the human spirit, it is vanity all the more to seek them from Adam, because Adam never had milk to give.

    The dramatic irony about these words of the speaker is that immortal milk (that is, milk that gives eternal life and milk that does not end) does come from a man, namely Jesus Christ, who shed his blood for the new covenant in which we drink the wine of his forgiveness and fellowship.

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