Ode to Auntie Mary’s Vase (with apologies to Keats)

Quiet keeper of unspent wilderness,

Solitary labour of middle years,

Anglian recorder, heart’s confess,

Conveyor of childish fears:

What promise of modernity etched upon your sides

That yet take primitive form

And lacerate pressed uneven clay?

What crazy dance displayed? What uncanny storm?

What shapes described? What stubborn marks berate?

What spiels and sagas? What dire fantasy?

Enough is known for tears, cover your eyes

You griever; before, the dark clouds, thunder;

Out the utopian past, far, distant cries,

Sad Echo calling lamely to no avail:

So vain, progress to march, where angels shy

Away, your mother fit this clay to share;

False Master, wheeler-dealer without claim,

Fast promise made yet kept not, twas a lie;

See molten stone, expunge your sight with shame,

And blinded then you’ve time, to sit and stare!

Oh, happy, happy years! that bless-ed age

Of loss, when all the senses fade away:

And, second childhood, approaching,

No longer weeping hours no longer day;

T’ward happy end! t’ward happy, happy end!

And blinded cold and ne’r to see again,

And blinded laughing, and blinded from worth;

As sinking slowly happy to expend,

This mortal coil that’s become your bain,

Sans guilty conscience, sans pretentious worth.

What hope of reading opaque palimpsest?

The hands made obscure, you hideous jar,

Rendered your fat body stupidly underdressed,

And your neck shiny with glazing quite bizarre?

What bitter row with Vincent made you thus,

Shun airforce-hero with brazen ugliness,

A mocking crock of rock, with form amok?

A, hateful urn, made for all to cuss

Sit sullenly; and hold a hard heart less

My cracks come manifest, for all to view.

O wretched can! Crass crucible! With pose

Uncanny, fiend, inheritance unsought,

Whose graven carcass hums yesterdays woes

Aye, fateful foe, I leave you out of sort

Yet speak honestly: Blunt Instrument!

When time and place are macerated mush,

Solid I’ll squat, Sisyphus’ handmaid

Mary, moulded me well, like a harsh scrub-brush,

Folly, is all, all folly – ’tis the bent

Of our doings, and life’s reckoning relayed.

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