Poem 5

The ache of separation is permanent.

There is no point in moaning post-wise that

love and the times are out of joint.

Some day there will be a conjunction of these two things.

It’s the rubbing together of past and present which stings.

There is no remembered past action that does not cause me pain;

And every present breath leaves an indelible stain.

To love is impossible; to serve the beloved is not allowed.

My hands do nothing all day but weave my next death shroud.

The Beloved is all in all, the lover is nothing.

This is what is meant by ‘grinding’ and ‘crushing.’

Even obedience cannot be given. The snag there

Is the root of self-desire — to make one’s black face seem fair.

Do not be beguiled, brother, by loose talk about the Quest:

The only path of love is: the beloved knows what is best.

The short terse phrases of the poem convey the message. Our situation is stuck in the serial time of our own ego-creating. How different it is to the usual lover’s complaint about being shown the Beloved’s cold shoulder. In Beckett this despair gives rise to a babble of voices vainly trying to stave off the silence. What holds things together here? Partly the controlled form of the ghazal; but mainly the unending drive of the need to love and surrender. The despair is integrated not in the absurd but in the Real. This perhaps is Francis at his bleakest, but still affirming submission.

‘Post-wise’ means wise after the event, after the horses have past the post. Past ego-centred behaviours are made more stinging because they continue in the present. How then can he talk about goal-centred behaviour, the quest, when he is still bound in selfhood?