When all is said and done, what is it worth? What’s left of us? Carbon and oxygen and hydrogen, A little calcium and phosphorus, Sulphur and sodium. Mere elements. About five dollars, then, Of value to be turned into the earth. A tidy sum. No more than meat and gristle, fat and bone— Now here he lies. No consciousness, no point of view, no feeling, No backward longing look or wild surmise For what may be in store. No ghost in this cold chrysalis appealing To be seen through by love and fully known, And know what for. So comes the pallor, now the heart is still. The blood will drain With gravity towards the lower side And spread across the skin its purple stain. And so the rigor grips, Though soon enough the body’s mollified, Resolving into gas and grume, until It simply slips The complex net of sense it lived to serve. The rule of law, The burden of possession are resigned. The scenes of what he felt and did and saw, Like boxes by Cornell Arranged and lit and furnished in the mind, Go out. No more to see of that chef d’oeuvre, No more to tell. So many years preparing for this end, Trying to shore A memory picture up against this day, For someone to acknowledge and restore, As though alive, to sense, An image they can summon and survey, Remembering and trying to comprehend Its elements.
The Life and Times