Raising Statues to the Dead
by Louis Daniel Brodsky
From this grassy vantage where I sit,
Watching students pass, in twos, threes
And singly, through lilac and redbud hues,
Like colors escaping a coruscating prism
Or balloons lifting vertiginously,
My shadow casts its stolid mass.
The contrast between its static attitude
And that of the myriad lives filing by,
On their way toward formulated destinations,
Persuades me that my motion has ceased,
That old dreams, energies, and hopes
For reaching new plateaus have now exceeded
Their own imposed statute of limitations.
As I gaze, with not-quite-excitement,
At the excited, energized faces, the bodies,
Whose youth outrageously tantalizes my eyes,
I sense, among all their unfamiliar profiles,
One staring at me, preternaturally,
Out of the crowd. His moves coincide with mine.
The fidgeting outlines of his tufted hair
Ride my skull. We share a derelict fate,
As if arrived here, from separate lives,
By a cosmic symmetry foreordained
And irreversible. Why this halcyon place,
This stately, ivory-towered fortress?
Is it possible that in a former incarnation,
We were one fulgent star, not Dioscuri,
Circling this illuminated galaxy of learning?
Or are we mere displaced accidents of nature,
Freaks by virtue of similar shape,
Whose only distinguishing feature is the absence of color
In one, the full spectrum in the other,
Brought together, for the first time
Under the sun, to speculate on eternity’s duration?
When I look up, the multitudes passing the library,
Where, for hours, I’ve drowsed in vagrant suspension,
Have dissipated. The walks and lawns
Show no trace of having been trespassed upon
Or violated, except by me.
I rise, stretch, choose a direction
That might let me elude my second.
Only, no matter which way I turn,
I can neither absorb him not be penetrated.
It grows late. The air changes its mind,
Refuses to retain day’s heat.
It tries to rob me of mine, to stay alive.
Suddenly, I am my shadow, abandoned
And alone on this silent campus
A transplanted obelisk from the land of the dead.