Begin when all the rest had left behind them
Headlong death in battle or at sea --
I am, you realize, Percy Bysshe Shelley: Shelley grown old, fat, timid, and doubtful. I understand all that swathe of destruction. The conviction that the desire sweeping over me must be drenching all the land, filling up arteries and arterioles of the earth -- not to mention the woman who has fixed my attention. But, you know, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. And Harriet Westbrook and Mary Godwin Shelley learned that the bitter hard way.
Still, Mary would never hear a word against him. And that counts for something, as his poems wash up less and less often on the shore of the present. He's slipping back into the ocean: his champions have made personae non gratae of themselves, and anyway, he was not quite, not quite good enough to make the leap. It's good to know Mary is still waiting for him down there, among the other women and the fish.
It's this business of seeing around corners, of seeing the transparency of your own flesh, the quick glance away of knowing dark eyes, the blindness as the sun swings into the telescope, when the sidewalks all twist and ripple and you can see all the restless things beneath. It's never quite still, and never quite dead. Things that other people can't see clutch at you. Words throw long thread-roots into other words, and drag themselves into other languages, while they're still not quite unfleshed. It's the not-quite-ness that stings.
But none of this is what I wanted to say. I look over the lined faces of the poets carefully, as they lean into each other, each in black, and try to read the threads there, too. We are all Penelope, unweaving at night what we wove in the day, putting off a new husband as long as we can, hoping old Manytropes will still roll home in the end, shaggy but mossless. He might still outsmart them all. He might.
Fools and children!
They feasted on the kine of Helios
And he who walks all day through the heavens
Took from their eyes the dawn of their return.