17 December 2011

The End of Desire

In the December issue of Poetry magazine, just inside the cover is an excerpt from the poem "Twigs" by Taha Muhammad Ali, printed in memory of the Palestinian poet, who died recently.  The stanza reads
And so
it has taken me
all of sixty years
to understand
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people's hearts.
With that splendor comes stillness and longing at once, the paradox of the contemplative moment. In fact, the entire poem, which appears in Ali's collection So What? resigns itself to longing, desire, attachment and finally, the non-attachment we speculate we'll find in death.
Neither music,
fame, nor wealth,
not even poetry itself,
could provide consolation
for life's brevity,
or the fact that King Lear
is a mere eighty pages long and comes to an end,
and for the thought that one might suffer greatly
on account of a rebellious child.
So the poem begins.  It ends
After we die,
and the weary heart
has lowered its final eyelid
on all that we've done,
and on all that we've longed for,
on all that we've dreamt of,
all we've desired
or felt,
hate will be
the first thing
to putrefy
within us. 
Oh, to release our hold on that dark desire, to say farewell to hate at last! Is it so, only in death? Alas. And isn't Mortality the perfect muse, birthing her twins, Hope & Despair?