The Thing That Eats the Heart
The thing that eats the heart comes wild with years.
It died last night, or was it wounds before,
But somehow crawls around, inflamed with need,
Jingling its medals at the fang-scratched door.
We were not unprepared: with lamp and book
We sought the wisdom of another age
Until we heard the action of the bolt.
A little wind investigates the page.
No use pretending to the pitch of sleep;
By turnings we are known, our times and dates
Examined in the courts of either/or
While armless griefs mount lewd and headless doubts.
It pounces in the dark, all pity-ripe,
An enemy as soft as tears or cancer,
In whose embrace we fall, as to a sickness
Whose toxins in our cells cry sin and danger.
Hero of crossroads, how shall we defend
This creature-lump whose charity is art
When its own self turns Christian-cannibal?
The thing that eats the heart is mostly heart.
(From the NY Times obit, a grim reminder of how things were in this country within living memory: “He began writing poetry at the suggestion of a professor, then set out to earn a doctorate at Harvard. But on being told that he would not be offered a lectureship because the Anglo-Saxon students would resent being taught English literature by a Jew, he dropped out of the program in 1927 after completing the requirements for his master’s degree.”)