Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Alive in the long, deep room of the soul,
I feel, at 41, absurdly old,
a burnt-out heap of blackened greenwood
on the grate. And this despite the steady light
that fills this place and warms the burnished floors,
the leather chairs, the paintings framed in gilt.
This despite the crystal sparking on the bar,
the shelves of books like soldiers on parade,
and bottles of wine racked like mortar shells
against the walls.
And all these guests—good Lord!
They talk and talk, make toasts, and show their teeth.
They straighten steam-pressed pleats and smooth their ties,
ignoring how the sun sweeps across the room,
each candlestick and champagne flute a gnomon
scything shadows down the hall.
The day goes cold.
Soon, the servants, funereal and neat,
will ghost about the room, closing doors
and shutters against the coming night, against
desire, ambition, and all those vistas
spread across the future’s darkened landscape.
I’ve seen their knowing looks, their fox-sly smiles.
They’ll turn the locks and pocket all the keys,
and soon, I fear, they’ll set the house ablaze.