Personal Choice 87
The End of the Weekend
A dying firelight slides along the quirt
Of the cast iron cowboy where he leans
Against my father's books. The lariat
Whirls into darkness. My girl in skin tight jeans
Fingers a page of Captain Marriat
Inviting insolent shadows to her shirt.
We rise together to the second floor.
Outside, across the lake, an endless wind
Whips against the headstones of the dead and wails
In the trees for all who have and have not sinned.
She rubs against me and I feel her nails.
Although we are alone, I lock the door.
The eventual shapes of all our formless prayers:
This dark, this cabin of loose imaginings,
Wind, lip, lake, everything awaits
The slow unloosening of her underthings
And then the noise. Something is dropped. It grates
against the attic beams. I climb the stairs
Armed with a belt.
A long magnesium shaft
Of moonlight from the dormer cuts a path
Among the shattered skeletons of mice.
A great black presence beats its wings in wrath.
Above the boneyard burn its golden eyes.
Some small grey fur is pulsing in its grip.
Anthony Hecht (1923 - 2004) was an American poet. His work combined a deep interest in form with a passionate desire to confront the horrors of 20th-century history, with the Second World War, in which he fought, and the Holocaust being recurrent themes in his work.
The poem seems to me to be is a metaphor for the way we live our lives, fearing what’s to come. The ‘great black presence’, presumably an owl, is a symbol of the ultimate what’s-to-come, death. The owl has symbolized death for centuries, and we are all somehow the mouse caught in the owl’s talons. The poem is also about ‘movement’, from the first floor to the second, and then he alone advances to the attic. Is this a metaphor or a symbol of growth or something else, much more sinister? There is much here to suggest it is. One of several poems I wish I had written myself.