‘Death Is a Wind That Will Carry You Off’

This poem is not intended as a companion piece to “Music for the End of Time.” The tone is entirely different, not at all apocalyptic. But it covers the same or similar ground, and I can’t help thinking that the difference in treatment is a merely a matter of temperament. Which is enough:

Abbie Conant

Death is a wind that will carry you off
sometime before the following dawn.
It may start with a lake-scented draft
from the cane break behind the house,
or a breeze through an open door
filling your nostrils with your
mother’s party perfume: White Gardenia.
Rolling over your body like a North Pacific wave:
the remembering, bringing the end of time.
The dying dog you fed, the crying child you
comforted; these will stay in the panner’s mesh.
But the soul-blackening betrayals will crumble away
with time itself and the dark pockmarks of your
heart will fall like sad rain to the departing earth.
Your eyes will be as vast as the sky that opens
around you and you will wonder how they remained
so obediently in your head.
Your bones will be gone. Your head will leak into all
air, your hands become breath.
Below, you will hear the weeping at the end of a bad opera.
It will not occur to you that you could be missed by anyone.
You will be following the irresistible scent of a rose
in full bloom not knowing you are in motion.
Not knowing you are nowhere to be found.

Abbie Conant, 2009

Excerpted from 35 of Abbie Conant’s poems, posted by William Osborne, her co-conspirator in life and music. He writes that he has collected her poems “from notebooks and scattered papers she leaves here and there.” There are published poets I’ve known who would turn green with envy at what she sheds. Here’s another from the scattering:

I loll in time, bask in piles of minutes
that I know will run out like tacks in a
carpenter’s jar.

A whole day before me like a feast of hours,
embraces me in seeming eternity that darkens
at nightfall.

I am left wondering at splashed stars on the
roof of being, the moon like an owl
looking back at me as I stand in the cooling yard
among the sleepers stretched out in
their beds,
in tidy houses just far apart enough to not
offend like business men positioned just so in
an elevator.

My time here is measured with your heartbeat.
Your eyes float in space, see me, are silent.
They are beautiful when you remember to love
me, sere and punctured when you do not.

I am an exoskeleton, whose fresh, winged life
is with you.

Not here at all.

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