The Edge of the Abyss


Sitting with Ramona in an ancient empty tomb,
We talk of Barcelona when the lilacs were in bloom.
The past is full of shadows as we try to reminisce,
So we light another candle on the edge of the abyss.

A corpse face down in the Tiber floats by San Angelo
And the hollow coliseum, where the ghosts of martyrs go.
At the foot of the Spanish Stairway, Cleopatra’s vipers hiss.
Is it love that makes us linger on the edge of the abyss?

Von Aschenbach’s in Venice, strolling by the Grand Canal,
While from an upper window plays Vivaldi’s gold chorale.
A man’s hand in a gondola will reach for the touch of bliss,
But he knows he must not stray too close to the edge of the abyss.

There’s a snowfall in the valley, as the train blows straight on through.
Kafka checks your passport, and he stares right into you.
The god of every glacier whispers secrets to the Swiss,
Six hundred stripped stark naked on the edge of the abyss.

Let us bow to Victor Hugo, sitting silent by the Seine,
As Quasimodo and Esmeralda taste the cold December rain.
We fall into le rouge et noir of a long and fretful kiss,
And Gustav Klimt will paint us on the edge of the abyss.

The wind blows in from Normandy, through the gardens of Flaubert,
Seabirds on the beaches know that something’s in the air,
Trying to convince themselves that there’s nothing much amiss,
As waves of blood crash in to shore on the edge of the abyss.

By the Tower Bridge of London, where the princess lost her head,
The Thames turns dark and crimson, as we remember all the dead.
As John Donne duels with Darwin and they take their aim and miss,
The thief retreats to Bedlam on the edge of the abyss.

In Edinburgh Castle, the view from Arthur’s Seat,
Mary Queen of Scots can smell the victory and defeat.
Down at the docks of Liverpool there’s a sound you can’t dismiss,
Drumbeats along the Mersey on the edge of the abyss.

We tramp on through an ice storm and slip across a frozen lake,
From Conwy to Canaervon, half asleep and half awake.
In dear old dirty Dublin, the Liffey’s filled with piss,
And Connemara calls us to the edge of the abyss.

So we scull the North Atlantic, which licks its icy lips.
Beneath the iron waters, we can see Ulysses’ ships.
A journey through the ages, yes, and all we’ve got is this—
A fog in New York harbor on the edge of the abyss.

1979, 2011, 2015, 17 November 2019


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