w.h.auden | funeral blues

26 02 2008
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Poetry Dispatch No. 210 | February 27, 2008

AUDEN
(Stopped Time)

You finally find the road home in the dark, late on a winter’s night, see the house hidden deeper in snow in your absence, two feet of drifts on the roof, the car completely buried under a mound of white, the path to coop where I write…(what path?) …looking like the Charles Peterson cover-painting on DOOR TO DOOR. Having traveled a long distance, you finally stop, pull out the luggage one last time…arms and shoulders numb from shuffling the stuff for hours through airports waiting waiting waiting for delayed planes…you trudge up the snowy back steps, open the kitchen door and drift immediately into a setting that appears both familiar and strange. A no-time, time zone, seeping with yesterday and the moment you find yourself in: almost back in time. You’ve been gone far too long, do not live here anymore, and all the clocks are dead.

Old Auden enters one’s dark, weary-winter head, presents himself with those most wonderful lines–most funereal, most alive..

“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephones,

I pay little attention to time but am surrounded by clocks. All of them stopped, gone silent in my absence. I can’t live in a house without the sound of clocks.

I have clocks that chime, strike, play a high-tech tune, and one that cries cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo… when you least want to hear it.

Each clock has a history of its own. There are at least seven in the three main rooms. All of they vying for attention—at different times. Not one of them really knows what time it is. They keep getting ahead or falling behind by minutes and hours.

I don’t care.

It doesn’t matter. It’s never the right time. That’s important to understand.

But whenever I’m away for a long time, whenever I return to a house of dead silence, I’m never home. I’m suspended in time.

I wait for that moment when I find myself, keys in hand, opening the clocks, moving the hands to “around-the-time” I think it is, winding each movement tight—then letting go, tapping the brass pendulum into its ancient arc-motion, listening for the first tick…hearing time run free. Ah…

Home again.Norbert Blei

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Funeral Blues by W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephones,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone
Silence the planes and with muffled drums
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let airplanes circle mourning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead
Put crepe bows round the white necks of public doves,
Let traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out everyone
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood:
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

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10 01 2009

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