Author's Note: “Of, course we would wish“ is one of the twenty poems of “All of Us Here,” a sequence centered on George Segal’s plaster casts. The “they” of this poem are those figures; the “we” are gallery-goers at an exhibition of Segal’s works.
Of Course, We Would Wish
Of course, we would wish them angelic lookouts on vigil to transmit — brightening and moving — the glory still forthcoming, still pending ... alert geniuses of anticipation ... in the pure moment prior to speech.... Sadly, it's the dead themselves they resemble, no longer fussing to be served better and more, withdrawing their demands on our attention, and are humble suddenly and patient, keep to their places, and make themselves smaller to give death greater room, and hunch down farther. It hurts to see them so decent and poor. And it does no good to scold them for it, to shout at these newly impoverished relations crowding timidly in the narrow hallway, or recall to them the old extravagance, or tempt them back with favorite morsels and the glowing tales that made the hearth warmer. Not once more will they rise from the table or come laughing out of the vestibule, kicking the springtime's mud from their shoes. The little and the less consume them now. What a fever it is, to make do with nothing. And throw off every word they ever wore, the metaphors that made them legendary — as if anything not literal bone, not plain matter, was illusion, delirium, conceit, swollenness of spirit prancing on show, this corruption ailing in their ligaments now. They are dying to be the letter itself: immaculate, and perfect in form, minute, not ever again to be read into, and beyond whiteness white, sole, invisible.
©2020 Irving Feldman
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