Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Which of us two?

(by Peter Viereck)

when both are strong with tenderness, too wild
with oneness to be severance-reconciled;
when even the touch of fingertips can shock
both to such seesaw mutuality
of hot-pressed opposites as smelts a tree
tighter to its dryad than to its own tight bark;
when neither jokes or mopes or hates alone
or wakes untangled from the other; when
more-warm-than-soul, more-deep-than-flesh are one
in marriage of very skeleton:
when, then, soil peels mere flesh off half this love
and locks it from the unstripped half above,
who’s ever sure which side of soil he’s on?
have I lain seconds here, or years like this?
I’m sure of nothing else but loneliness
and darkness, here’s such black as stuffs a tomb,
or merely midnight in an unshared room.
holding my breath for fear my breath is gone,
unmoving and afraid to try to move,
knowing only you have somehow left my side,

I lie here, wondering, which of us has died.


James said...

Which Of Us Two is, I believe, by Colin Spencer, written as an atonement for the man who loved him all his life:

Thank you for posting it. It was the first poem I ever memorised and it's good to see someone else loves it.

James said...

Oops, may I also make correction? You're mostly correct, but at the end it's:

And blackness - here's such as stuffs a tomb
Or merely midnight in an unshared room.
Not breathing for fear my breath is gone
Unmoving and afraid to try to move
Knowing only somehow you have left my side
I lie here, wondering which of us has died.

Gorod said...

Hi James,

thanks for your comments.

It seems that Colin Spencer did write a book with this same title, but I believe it is unrelated to this poem by Peter Viereck, which I got from a poetry anthology.

Do you have any reason to believe the two are connected, apart from the title being the same?

It seems I'll have to check the text with the original book where I got it from. I think I can get it next week.

Anyway, "it's good to see someone else loves it", as you wrote. The poem certainly deserves it.

I have a presentation I give sometimes called "7 Poems on the Subject of Death", and this is part of it (all the others are "bigger" poets, but I think this one has it's rightful place among them)...