How petty honesties pervade lies.
Yesterday I read Paul _
if I know all truth
and do not care I am noise.

But though much truth is given me
I have begun to seek it out
when it hesitates to help it on
selfward rushing

where it glides gentle truth on muffled feet.
There is yes this eager fool in this man
this clumsy heaviness
in pushing on a fuller life.

If this be loving less he still does not love worse
and the lack it drops gently off.
Wilted flowers pass bring fruit to birth
(the poetry slackens now and then.)

So let me cremate my soul
burn it for its bumbling entries.
Thrust into fire
let it turn to ashes and return.

My cloddish wanderings are the earth
in which my learning grows.
I it seems must die each time
for each time the pain

hurts you and kills me _
I am that moment blessed.
But you reel and I turn
look am struck again.

This could not be the grail
for which I have lingered in this frail bone.
The worm turned within the apple
and was bitten into.

It is the bitter organic taste
lying frankly on my tongue
and loosening my teeth.
True mystics of a mundane kind

have sought me out and taught me all
they knew. When they passed
I remained obscure circumspect
a collection of anonymous graces

that vote (in specified equal voice)
at mealtimes and love-makings
for a general well-being
a goodness of unspecificity

an ambiguous glow.
There is after all my sainthood
and my prophecies to consider
an encyclopedic tongue and a vision.

A life worth not a song not a line.

I pick my way along imagined grass banks
along my mind’s river eddies and swirls
passing me in a silent rush
and on the other side

across the street jewelled windows.
An entire city glitters vacuously at me.
The other side _
where people live their minute’s worth.

Whores sit outside the university.
They eat bananas and squat invitingly
their legs spread shadows and echoes between _
their eyes are pits with glimmers of more darkness.

Here the daily men and women descend
from inverse abysses
from their pits after a day of baiting.
Their scent is rank and bloody

there is carnality and blood-lust
in their minds. But in steel compartments
they stick closely unaware
of the sweat and smell and sex of the next.

Nothing works or even seems to
and the buses run late.
Back over on this side where I live
I keep losing my reasons

my sight has to my eyes unknown purpose
my vision becomes a variable unquantified.
The vacuum never speaks.
I fall falter.

A million other eyes stare at the ceiling
embarrassed or angry.
Still I remain to the last a heroic growth
a thing of strange conviction vision-driven.

But still I fail.
I will beg pardon retreat find a cave for penance
where I’ll lie in rotting furs and dankness
and light prayers and candles.

Apologia was previously published in the Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad Vol. 18, No. 1 (Fall 1999), edited by M.G. Vassanji.

© Gavin Barrett