Poems Without Frontiers

Poems in Translation

David Paley

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The Crossing
David William Paley

Where waters glisten as smooth as silk,
The wake too sleek to trace past deeds,
No feature shows what ill has built
For Time has ceased and death proceeds.

No light reveals what darkness cloaks
Compelled by force that knows no block,
Consigned to a crag of towering rock,
In the rhythmic beat of driving strokes.

With swooping bats in silent flight,
Where vultures fly and ravens croak,
Are ragged rooks and hooded crows;
And day is also jet black night.

In one last act for the tyrant dead,
A skull bores deep with sightless stare
To gaze upon the blank despair
That onward glides to coffined lead.

The final journey whence resound,
From waters struck by Charon's oars,
The fears now ferried to hopeless shores
Where all must end and graves abound.

"Gods! Give me one more hour before that void
Can taunt me with my life destroyed.
When, in lasting sleep, I am embraced,
What use are souls midst all this waste"?

"Man! You demand too much. Your path is chosen.
Neither return nor ease to you are granted;
For you are damned by the grief you planted
And will lie forever with your future frozen".

"Some respite there must surely be
When I express remorse at all my wrongs!
What purpose serves to store my crime
In barren vaults through endless time"?

"No mercy shown, no quarter given.
You sought advantage committing harm;
In slumbering thus, you earn reward.
You sowed the wind; now reap the storm".

"I repent my sins and ask for pardon,
Confess the guilt of shameful deeds,
And all the faults temptation breeds
But, in new birth, will remove the burden".

"Too easy is this bland assurance,
But the river flows with day relinquished
And you drift on stronger currents;
No flame rekindles once extinguished"

"Let time stand still, let judgement be delayed:
My choice was bad; my time misspent;
I shall redress the grief dispensed.
In worlds renewed, your laws shall be obeyed".

"Too shallow the pledge of reform implied;
Too late the anguish conjured by approach of doom;
And too heaped the vice to avoid the tomb.
The fates have beckoned and must not be denied".

"Then take me defenceless in my agony.
I cannot oppose your might but, thus consumed,
Implore that others will not share this wound
And they be spared this stark catastrophe".

"The gods discern your deep regret
That shows the thoughts you may beget.
Enter realms of bleakest shame
And dream those wisps that lately came".

Noiselessly, ceaselessly, the rower rowed
Until a jolt was felt and bones outstretched;
And, with that first, last step, the black of pitch
Sealed that crypt with its leaden load.