Diffuse the outpourings of the spiritual coward,
The rambling lies invented for the sick.
O see the fate of him whose guard was lowered!—
A single misstep and we leave the quick.
Flesh behind steel and glass is unprotected
From enemies that whisper to the blood;
The scratch forgotten is the scratch infected;
The ruminant, reason, chews a poisoned cud.
Platitudes garnished beyond a fool’s gainsaying;
The scheme without purpose; pride in a furnished room;
The mediocre busy at betraying Themselves, their parlours musty as a funeral home.
Though the devouring mother cry, “ ‘Escape me? Never—’ ”
And the honeymoon be spoiled by a father’s ghost,
Chill depths of the spirit are flushed to a fever,
The nightmare silence is broken. We are not lost.
by Theodore Roethke
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