Desire and Deceit


For Rene Girard, 1923-2015

Not again, the old men with beautiful manners.
– Ezra Pound

The old men of our age are young against
The violent, suffering such sacred cries…
We live as if the times were free and cleansed
Of envy, but we know from these
Embarking ferries what cruel death would say:
The fire rises every dawn to mystery –
Familiar as desire, lost as memory.
So truth is night that verges every day
Which hates itself, yet knows itself as day.

We try to capture every moment’s breath
With flesh, but lose the soul of argument
Because the body knows that only death
Provides the wound – unless the sentiment
Of beauty heals the foreign element –
The other – those – the sin that takes the step
In which we place the body deep, deep, deep…
I wish that nothing were the case – but take
It life will some day give what death will take

And knew no French but heard you anyway
By age and time. By youth and wonder’s books
I sat and heard you lecture, heard you say
That creatures live and imitation speaks
The grammar grace’s tender mercy brooks
Between the prepositions of and in.
I loved a woman of the world – taboo
And token sin – and urge and instinct knew
That beauty suffered what my conscience knew.

Remember, man, that dust remembers man –
Recalls the day angelic beasts renewed
Our call to human living. Manners can
Propose a mystery: the stage construed
With shadows, fictions made with words and breath;
But understand by holocaust of faith
That noon escapes, confirmed by midnight’s dark,
And night corrals the stars, each a splintered spark,
You ancient man, that hates and loves the dark.


  1. Brian Jobe says

    This is so fine. My favorite (perhaps obviously) of yours now.

    There is a danger, I think, in reading Girard in such a way that logos necessarily grades into mythos. As an example, Girard himself came to realize that he had perhaps placed too much emphasis on negative (or maybe destructive) mimesis, while neglecting how mimesis has a creative or positive aspect to it as well. And of course he never forsake Reason, but simply allowed that it was simply bestowed by the Enlightenment. All this is to say it is a fine poem, logos and perhaps mythos alike. Many thanks, JOB.

  2. Big Jon Bully says

    Envy wraps its slithering fingers around everyone everywhere. Girard had that one nailed down. Great poem.

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