The Halfway House, Part IV        

 
Question      Your name and nationality?

 

Answer         My name is on my passport, and

                   My passport is my native land.

 

Question      What brings you to this desolation?

 

Answer         Pleasure, perhaps.

 

Question      Are you a spy?

 

Answer         Of course.

 

Question      I envy you - for I

                   Would also like to be a spy,

                   Instead of baiting traps

                   For those who, careless, wander by

                   My up-to-date police station.

 

                   What made you choose this great vocation?

 

Answer         A love of mystery.

                   But recent history

                   Gave me the final shove.

 

Question      You are a student?

                   But I am a student too!

                   A constant student of

                   Sciences,

                   Modern appliances,

                   And the lore of the brand-new.

 

                   And you ... ?

 

Answer         I am a bad student, the scholar

                   Who failed

 

Question      And yet you wear the white collar?

 

Answer         In fact, a faded blue.

                   But learning is not found in schools

                   Only, and there are learned fools

                   With the courtesy style of worker.

 

Question      An Honorable Shirker?

 

Answer         In a manner of speaking, yes.

 

Question      You are not a success?

 

Answer         After a fashion, no.

                   So long as I misunderstood

                   The way things went, I thrived.

                   But when the doubts came out of the wood -

                   Work, out of the dry rot, out

                   Of hiding in the white-washed world,

                   I wondered that they had survived

                   Under the weight of lies.

                   I read the books again, and said

                   ‘False’ to the bland progressive dead;

                   And as I read, the pages would

                   Yellow before my eyes.

                   The good, I found, were never named;

                   Instead, the bad were called the good,

                   Malice acclaimed.

                   I knew the new world; saw its films

                   For the first time in the open;

                   And, by and by, I lost my qualms

                   At being in the desert.

 

Question      Tell me about this great white world

                   You have left behind.

 

Answer         In marble bank and brokerage house

                   The perfect gentlemen arouse

                   The sacred bull.

                   In bucket-shop they order prayer

                   Lest prowling predatory bear

                   Eat up their profit.

                   But soft; the telephone is hoarse;

                   Come, timeless bard, hymn no divorce.

                   See, the bull, the bear, together

                   At the Capitol forgather;

                   Lo, they speak, and conscript father

                   Hears the high religious tone:

                   ‘Save the rich and starve the poor:

                   ‘We want more and more and more

                   ‘Money and pleasure.’

                   Whereat, the sibyl, pendent, blonde,

                   Hung overhead in chains of light,

                   Murmurs, oracular: ‘I see

                   ‘The widow’s stock, the orphan’s bond,

                   Ascending and descending; bright

                   Stones, and several furs for me.’

                   Silence, my muse, Oh, silence; for

                   The modern bride goes to the door!

                   Thrice-married, she; veiled ‘Other Woman’

                   Now leaves the Senate for her home

                   Electric. Stand back, ye starveling scribes,

                    While throng the festal priests of Mammon;

                   Loud cry, ye muted plebs; ye tribes

                   Bacchantic, raise the roofs of Rome.

                   ‘Long life, and shorter working days!’

                   Be this the burden of your praise.

                   And now, lest I unworthy prove

                   Among the shades because I gave

                   No solemn ending to my song: -

                   One final note, O lyre, one tune

                   To echo from the southern moon.

                   Tell how the lights on bestial faces

                   Play, while coins are struck;

                   How, rapt, the broker, gibberish sings;

                   How bankers dance to sound of things;

                   And how the liars in high places

                   Sacrifice to luck.

 

Question      In this region

                   There are not many of your religion;

                   But at Alexandria

                   They are more advanced.

                   I am myself interested.

                   We should all be of one faith.

                    Do you agree?