By the dark light of the moon-lost city
He walks discreetly, his splendour hidden.
But dogs follow the scent of such safety,
And footfalls of cats in sequence deaden.
Stops by the house he does not know. Knocks
At the door. Waits for an open word.
No word, but the door swings back. He speaks.
Then climbs up the long stairs, breathing hard.
Alone in the room, he hears talk next door.
Nothing he understands. Beyond the windows,
Darkness. Here only the smell of poor
People, like the smoke of just-quenched candles.
The door gives on a dining-room. Radiance
Faces him from a table. Then audience
In the doorway. And deep-spoken resonance:
‘You have come in time and not by chance.’
Now he cannot speak. What was said quickly
To himself hangs on his tongue, a burden.
‘I would ask ...’ he says, and then, politely,
‘If there is time enough for one question?’
He is led to the roof; and in palm-lined
Air stands beside what he tries to see.
‘On all things,’ he says, ‘my mind is certain,
Except this question I would ask you.’
The silence, he feels, heartens; the dark,
He feels, is at dawn before his eyes.
‘I would,’ he says, ‘put my time to work.
Which is the given moment’s best use?’
He looks patiently at what might startle
The stars, he thinks - the face that fathoms
Him in the night. ‘It is not some little
Thing,’ he says, ‘but the meaning of myself.’
Over the roofs beyond the roof, night
Fills up the valley. All is an equal
Dark. But the voice surprises like light:
‘Do what you should do, and do as usual.’
But he has not come here, disguised, secret,
To hear himself as himself. ‘I follow
Justice,’ he says with fatigue, ‘the accurate;
I know the weight of that - but what follows?’
At the top of the stairs, a tall woman
Stands, her hands filled with bottles of perfume.
‘I have brought these,’ she says, ‘as a present;
I would not put off what I most wanted.’
She goes away, and he is left waiting
To hear what comes after such a scene.
‘All,’ he is told. ‘All. You will find waiting
All, if you give what you call your own.’
And the dark heightens as he sighs, listless.
‘Everything? But that is more, I think,
Than I have to give. This way to happiness
Hinders me. I must have time to think.’
‘There is no more time,’ says a poor man
From the stairs. ‘We are ready.’ And goes.
The dark on the roof bows down, as One
Leaves it, and the other bows his eyes.
Some way he walks with them for some safety.
But when they turn to the garden, turns,
And alone goes home, keeping in shadow,
Lest he be seen weeping without justice.