At Eternity’s Gate

By: Shain Ombres


“Enough of rest;” he said, “I must now begin!”

So he removed his hands from his head at last,

And leapt up quick. But dazed, his world spinned

Ever and ever, until he held fast

Distant remembrance of times which long passed.

When he recovered, moved by the skill of art,

He mixed his pallet and then began to start.


He soaked his brush and stroked an oily blue,

Blue that’s lively as the sea where sailors

Explore and net and sing in large canoes,

Soaring onwards till the sky grows paler.

Native shores they land where as wassailers,

They thank the gods for their safe passage home,

And drink to future lands they’ve yet to roam.


And then he bled like veins the shades of brown,

Tracing vivid hues likes leaves in autumn

Of varied gold that furnish Nature’s gown.

Frigid breezes fell exhale and blow them

Far away to yonder foggy bottoms.

These leaves then tint their landscapes amber, rust,

Or bronze, that in the sunlight shine like stardust.


A touch of blazing crimson! To contrast

Achromatic gloom that hoards the canvas.

The hoary shadows dim it did outcast,

Like a lucent drooping amaranthus

In the night that comforts lovers anxious;

Or how the heath consoles the young and old,

Who labors harshly in the frosty cold.


Alas! He dropped his brush and the gleaming oil

Revealed a mirror image that showed the man

Who spent all day in long endeared toil.

Proud and triumphant, the artist’s eyes scanned

Wholly the easel which held his grand plan.

He then declared, “this is my true tour-de-force!”

And in a thousand words, his work ran its course:


Lithograph


I.

There is one element meet for king

And peasant sage alike; a sapling root

Fixed among some placid field of asphodel,

Where whisking lilac petals ring a silent knell,

Where, nourished by the breast of the brake, upsprings

From the earth an obelisk veiled in frond and budding fruit,

Budding fruit to be renowned and sweet one day when ripe and swell.

Here this timber towers over realms of brutes,

Until they pluck its berries and uproot

The curséd ground where lays its tender anchor rings.

Wicked craftsmen then perform their trade;

Thorns and thistles routed by the blade

That asunders the branches, bringing up a fruitful mold

Fit to seat the regal and the old.

‘Worn, weary and worn, I wish for my wonted wold,’

The curling chair doth creak and sing,

To the waltz of jaded tiller’s boots.


II.

The mantle gleams and wans and gleams in sync

With a dancing blaze enthralled in iron hearth;

This crackling kindle, born and raised from earth,

Fiends to feast on timber, pallid leaves to shrink

And shrivel to a brew of mirth.

When ember fades and shivers from the wintry cold,

Weary and desperate to be no longer seen,

They are deceived into growing old,

By selfish men for selfish means

With a branch as sweet as poppy seeds;

Poppy seeds as cragged as the branch

That reignites the flame only to mislead

It with some sanguine sparks that scranch;

Like a wayfarer in some barren land

Who spots a sweet mirage in the sands afar,

And rouses some courage to chase the pilot star,

But finds that anguish be as endless as the sands.

I hold it true when I dare say:

‘Tis better to be smothered than to fade away.


III.

Old age flees a nearby light and clings onto a host,

Revealing wrinkled faces worn from work,

Scars and tears that tell what we have lost.

Our curling locks have withered thin,

And shed with the shivers of our shriveled skin,

Like slumbrous trees against the autumn gale.

In our hands we bury our head,

The hands with which we buried our dead,

To preserve our faces from growing more stale

And hid ourselves from Death who ever lurks.

Why do we fear what we know not,

While the world around us decays and rots?


IV.

In the fields we sweat and toil,

Our sons we loved lie beneath the soil,

Our sons we taught to sow the earth, the nation, and a broken heart,

Whose headstrong minds we introduced to books and art,

So they may strive and seek a fortune grand,

Want of a life they would come to abhor.

They, scolded and forgiven, cherished but ignored

Were cheered by mother, sister, sweetheart,

As they departed to the Austrian lands,

Or marched onwards toward their Prussian counterparts,

Or to pacify the boundless Berber sands.

We refused to accept these cheers as farewells,

Even as we could not discern the keels from shells

That battered ancient forts, forts weary and worn

From Spanish cavaliers of long ago.

But our sons have learned well; to hate a foe

They know not, to trade fell blows with what limbs remain untorn,

Some to spit their final breath ruddy and forlorn,

Others know not their final twitch would be on native land so cold.

But our sons have learned well; they tend the wold

Like their fathers taught them long ago,

And well they make the seedlings grow,

With the guidance of our silent tears we fail to stow.

Their corpses fit their soiled shroud and feed

Their father, widow, unborn son who shall only know their deeds

As told by sage as they fall asleep nearby the fire.

They shall never be our sons but by face

And name, which they are destined to disgrace,

Never living up to him whom we desire.


V.

How can we rest when we must awaken early

To cleave the wold and reap the brittle barley?

Our dues we take, and though we stow our wheat,

The storms of sorrow leave us famished and beat.

We emerge to find the rain has washed away our feats and pride,

Yet we continue to endure the famine after the storm subsides;

Why must we endure? For tears weigh less than sweat,

Idle tears abate the aches that toil onsets.

Why must we endure? The fields shall grow;

The fields shall grow long past our demise,

Old soil is turned but new toil shall arise.

Long years of blood and sweat they shall dismiss

When we are gone, for nature never slows.

She shall call upon some new dim-witted eyes

To work the harvest ignorant and bliss;

Rolling soil and rolling sweat into his eyes,

And blistering hands that turn the plough.

But they endure, for son and wife,

Deceived to think long toil rewards a prosperous life.


VI.

The mirror lies, revealing youthful age

From a hopeful time which dims our tired eyes

Like our closing eyelids that rest can only assuage.

This dark reflection we despise

With envy and regret, for we realize

There exists some twisted reality,

Where our call to arms we proudly denied

With our sons to live our lives in glee,

Or perhaps in early toil we found the courage to cease!


VII.

The tilling of the wold has left us worn,

Our duty and our pride has left us torn,

And we no longer have our sons to mourn.

Lift your heads my friends! There lies the threshold to eternal ease!

What have we left to sacrifice? Time shall we no more appease

With aging years and harvest plenty, while we are famished and fear

A fate worse than death. But we are not our former selves; our skin,

Scared and Bruised, tells us nothing is worse than to live another year!

Arise and weep no more! The longer we sit, the more we sin.

Let us seize our fate, ignored in ancient times, and open the door

To a higher world where we shall rule o’er those we dearly loved and swore

A sacred oath to shield them from a life of troubles, tears, and toil.

They’ll receive us with the open arms that life has long denied,

Like how sons, returned from war, are grasped by mothers, fathers, brides.

This realm is ours! There be no need to reap the fields or sow the soil;

They shall sow themselves. And when the sun retires on barks ashore,

We shall sit and smile on wooden chairs like kings on kingly thrones,

As we overlook our vast demesne and be a lucent beacon

For our hapless neighbors cleaved to muck, who will travail till weakened

Like a cagéd beast that gnaws his arm in hope of liberty.

We shall save them from the flood and introduce the possibility

Of some yonder paradise where man shall never plod alone.

So let us cease our toils, and rest will lead us to a place unknown.


~New York, 2021



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