The River Lethe

1.This time he went out too far.
He returned too late.
His body was locked up tight.
He couldn’t get back in.
The old key wouldn’t work.
Death had changed the locks.


Now on the far side of the Lethe,
Plato’s boundary on our side of which
We can’t remember the dream we had last night,
The dead are forgetful,
Always leaving their bodies behind
And no forwarding address.
We store them in those leaky terminals
   that are under the churchyards,
Careful to mark overground what belongs to whom
Meanwhile the world can kill life-longing
Or think upon an old belief,
That the God who was here once before
Will come down again some day
And claim this luggage.


We don’t forget the dead so much
As they forget us.
You can tell when they come back again
   in an infant generation:
Still lethargic from the river,
They recognize nothing in this world.
Nothing is familiar.
They try to sleep it off
And when they wake,
They cry a lot.

–July 8, 1994

(“The River Lethe” was published in the Winter 2005 issue of Nomad’s Choir, Woodside NY.)

Published on October 26, 2006 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

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