Book Three: 16

I tried to cut through
                            all our hurried centuries,
                                                        lost in a forest within.
                            broke by war
                                                        emerged in frightful shape—
more than human
                            but also less,
                                                        they were quite aware,
the sovereign dead,
                            that time is like a window
                                                        opening up the sad patterns of never.
As one they advanced—
                            Lloyd George
                                                        Georges Clemenceau
Adolph Hitler
                            —through history.
                                                        But the past does not follow
so straightforward a path
                            said I
                                                        (predictably in Italian),
and, burning
                            under their masters,
                                                        they proclaimed
the world a pendulum.
                            It is possible,
                                                        but this gives rise
to the often-heard complaint
                            that repetition is unavoidable.
                                                        Still time issues into today,
little fathers.
                            The years, I believe,
                                                        can be shaped with one’s hands.
The world
                            —its obscure moving fields,
                                                        Persian tragedies,
and countries in peace—
                            I had to inform
                                                        that council of the lost,
remains an instrument,
                            a valve instrument,
                                                        which, when waning,
is perfectly clear in the pit
                            —and, being given
                                                        to such classical concepts
as freedom and necessity,
                            laboriously continued
                                                        in the traditional way—
I believe     I believe.

Srikanth Reddy, “Book Three: 16” from Voyager. Copyright © 2011 by Srikanth Reddy. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press
Source: Voyager (University of California Press, 2011)
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