To Beg Mercy Of A Shadow

by Robert Vivian

After Mandelstam

And to keep begging always in thumb-broken prayer, I a beggar and you a beggar of the soft luminescence and shadow, yes, the shadow of a pencil and the shadow of a book and how all darkness has its place in the windows of time and how I am a shadow when I move between rooms and move between grief, when there is a whisper on my tongue and a whisper on my lips, when I don’t have the words the shadow falls over me and I bow my head and how would I want so dearly for one hour, one minute, one second for all the world’s leaders to be beggars, to hold their hands together in one pleading fist for mercy, mercy, for light, for the shade of a shadow from the sun and their own wanton power, for the shadow of a missile or a bullet or the interrogation table, and how to beg mercy of a shadow, as Mandelstam wrote in a poem, how to walk in this valley of darkness and fear no evil, how to crack open this century with a sparkle of verse and love most scandalously all who persecute us, to beg mercy of a shadow, to beg mercy of a book, a poem, this scratching out of lines like a mouse nibbling on a piece of cardboard and how in such humble fervor the world is redeemed and almost saved and sanctified, how it is all coming down in the wind, I mean the titles and fame and factories, I mean the rape and violence committed upon and to this earth, how rapaciousness finally will go the way of all thunder and lightning into everlasting distance, how only poetry and brook trout will save us from ourselves, how a single candle flame says so quietly, Here is a bud of light in a sea of darkness, look over it and be faithful until the poem comes on the wings of a breeze before flying away forever, before you breathe again in the peaceful dark and whisper thank you, becoming one again with the moon and the stars and all there is, even a chair missing a leg in the corner, even a kiss on the forehead when you were a child and almost innocent and almost worthy of the first running brushstrokes of the eternal dawn.

Robert Vivian has published four novels and two books of meditative essays. His next book, Mystery My Country, is a collection of dervish essays (a kind of prose poem) and will be published in April of 2016.