I’ll take off this faded overcoat
This bleach-stained t-shirt
My worn jeans and dust-encrusted desert boots
Lay them down
Then wash myself of sweat and dirt
Strip back this ageing face with the blue grey-eyes
And the creased mouth which may
Or may not have spoke to you the words
Assembled in my brain
From my chest tear off the sticker with my name
Ouch, that hurt!
Then peel away the skin and delve
Insinuate beneath the layers and the shelves
Through muscle, nerve, into bone
Exploring old scars, calluses and cysts
Pierce the membranes of the cells
Dive deep to reach those mystery nuclei
To swim in the chemistry of my life
Weave into the fabric of my home
Dig up its foundations
There’s surely treasure buried there
Nothing shall be missed
Though all shall be well, as well
Should the ground be found
Somewhat bare. Who cares?
Better to be men, I say
Than archaeologists

Let me take off this rude, battered body
This tall but sorely leaning totem
Lay it down! For only just a moment
Say, the remainder of this poem
Look now beyond the place it stood
Beyond the acts or non-acts
Done by it on my behalf
Whether by the common reckoning
They be bad or good
The blood and tears it spilled
Just or unjustly, just as you would deem it
Its own or others, friends or enemies
Should it have the like of such
Beyond all its soaring strengths and fatal fragilities
(You will have found as much)
Beyond its pleasures and its pains
Its open wounds and battle scars
Beyond any aversion or regard
You might feel at its sight
Look at where this body stood, then look afar
Can you see its frowns and smiles
Like petals, black or orange bright
Lingering a-flutter in the air?
Then look beyond again!

Let me remove myself as well
From all those facts or non-facts
Or facets I should say
(But after all it’s just an ‘e’)
That people say
Make up my personality
Let me remove that too, from view!
I shall unbutton it and take it off
Smooth it out and lay it on the floor
Over there, just near the door
And open the window for me please
We’ll sit here, waiting for a breeze
Meanwhile regard it, lying there all calm and mute
Pathetic really, isn’t it?
Regard, it has dislikes and likes
Kindnesses, cruelties, indifferences
Heights, depths, mediocrities
Regard the varied movements of its thought
Colours of dreams and scents of memories
Magnificent too though, isn’t it?
Regard its pasts and futures
Its four horizons and its horoscope
Regard its golden summers, snowy winters
And those that have been otherwise
Regard the cool light of its dawns
The molten glow of all its sunsets
And those that have not been so
Regard its crescent, full and waning moons
Regard the shifting veils of mist
Before its face
Oh joy, a breeze, a gust
It will pick all these pieces up
To scatter them, wherever they shall blow

Now look beyond
Beyond those cheerfully dancing pieces in the wind
Beyond the faded overcoat left lying on the floor
Beyond this brown hair that slowly turns to snow
Beyond my dearest loves, my kith and kin
My friends, beyond even you
What is there more, beyond
Those things of heart that burn
This way, this word, this love, this song?

Copyright © Robert Hale 2020.

Image: Painting by Paul Klee, 1879-1940. Public domain.

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