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As I Walked Out One Evening by W.H. Auden

1.
Chopin on Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 27/1, Larghetto. In four minutes and four seconds, I sat quite still while my heart is breaking.

2.
Sharp pangs were never unfamiliar, but I never thought I’d go this way again: it’s been almost three years now, and I should be over it. Over you. But I never forget, so: happy birthday.

3.
I opened my diary on my lap, and I was determined to write the greatest love story of my life: There was a girl who only had two great loves—the first was with someone who stopped loving her, the last was with someone who never stopped. But I’m afraid the happy ending hasn’t happened yet.

4.
Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65. In nine minutes and fifty seconds, I stood in the middle of my room and imagined one night when I rested my head upon your shoulder as we swayed in the silence.

5.
I don’t know which is more excruciating: enduring the fourteenth, when everybody celebrates love, or the sixteenth, when you celebrate the day you were born. I think it is the fifteenth, wedged in between two tragic days: I dance in between not crying and wanting to cry.

6.
Opened a book of poetry, and I was determined to read about how other poor souls dealt with such loss. All I could bring myself to read was: “Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.”

7.
Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor. In eight minutes and fifty-five seconds, I willed myself to fall asleep. No good will come to thinking about you now. You are somewhere far away, and I have refrained from sending you a postcard wishing you the best of luck. And that is that. The illusion of a warm hello will not conquer the distance, nor the pain.

8.
I closed my eyes, and suddenly you were whispering in my ear, “All the clocks in the city,” but you never seem to finish. We were lying in bed with your arms around me, but you never did finish what you were going to say. And then all the clocks ran out of time, and then we were over, and your words were lost.

9.
The one who stayed to finish it, was Auden sitting on my bookshelf—and then my heart skips, skips to how it all ends —

As I Walked Out One Evening
W.H. Auden

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
‘Love has no ending.

‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

‘I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

‘The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.’

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

‘In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

‘Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.

‘O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.

‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

‘O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.’

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

Comments (1)

  • Liz

    Goodness gracious.

    reply

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