Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Purity and Belligerence

The tent poles of commitment
Can be set to capacious
Enough for field commanders—

Even brooding emperors—
For a whole world-class circus
With vendors and audience—

Or to frightened narrowness,
So close as to be absurd,
Useless for holding things up,

Bound to twist, topple over,
Sad, incompetent madness
Collapsed in heaps of canvas,

But don’t laugh. Pillars of fire,
Pillars of cloud, of Moses,
Caesar, Aurelius, Khan,

Balance holding high the roof,
However temporary,
Of human authority,

Retaining capacity
To incubate tragedy
And hide it under trappings

Of gaudy extravagance.
By the one pole, purity,
Belligerence is anchored,

And, in turn, belligerence
Grants tension to purity.
Are you really one of us

Through and through, grounded, upright?
Will you lean into the wind
In defense of principle?

Mostly, it’s not dramatic
As all that, but there’s a tilt
Toward alignment, a tilt

Against whatever isn’t
In that alignment, and one
Never without the other.

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