Guest poem submitted by Vikram Doctor:
(Poem #427) The Two
You are the town and we are the clock. We are the guardians of the gate in the rock The Two On your left and on your right In the day and in the night, We are watching you. Wiser not to ask just what has occurred To them who disobeyed our word; To those We were the whirlpool, we were the reef, We were the formal nightmare, grief And the unlucky rose. Climb up the crane, learn the sailor's words When the ships from the islands laden with birds Come in Tell your stories of fishing and other men's wives: The expansive moments of constricted lives In the lighted inn. But do not imagine we do not know Nor that what you hide with such care won't show At a glance Nothing is done, nothing is said, But don't make the mistake of believing us dead: I shouldn't dance. We're afraid in that case you'll have a fall. We've been watching you over the garden wall For hours. The sky is darkening like a stain Something is going to fall like rain And it won't be flowers. When the green field comes off like a lid Revealing what was much better hid: Unpleasant. And look, behind you without a sound The woods have come and are standing round In deadly crescent. The bolt is sliding in its groove, Outside the window is the black remov- ers van. And now with sudden swift emergence Comes the women in dark glasses and the humpbacked surgeons And the scissor man. This might happen any day So be careful what you say Or do. Be clean, be tidy, oil the lock, Trim the garden, wind the clock, Remember the Two.
from 'The Dog Beneath The Skin'. The other Auden poems we've had so far show his lyrical side or his questioning intelligence. But this poem has another aspect of Auden's - the ability to create a picture of nightmarish fear, of being hunted and pursued, of having 'them' after you. Not for nothing is Auden the dominant poet of the Thirties, the worst, most frightening and disturbed decade of our century. The Depression, the rise of fascism and other tyrannies, all the cowardices and compromises of what he called 'a low dishonest decade', it all seeps into Auden's verse, and what he does with it is unforgettable. It can be pointed, as in the picture of refugees he paints in 'Refugee Blues' ("Say this city has ten million souls,/ Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:? Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.") or just general and hallucinatory, as in "The Orators" ("Oh where are you going?" said reader to rider, "That valley is fatal where furnaces burn,/ Yonder's the midden whose odours will madden,/ That gap is the grave where the tall return."), but its always uniquely frightening. This poem in particular is straight out of those nightmares we've all had where we feel that under the normality of things, is something always looking at us, waiting to pounce if we step out of line for a moment. We all know the pressures of conformity, to be normal, not to be different, and the veiled threat of what might happen if we dare to be different... out comes the scissor man. Vikram