Nissim Ezekiel

(16 December 1924 - 9 January 2004 / Mumbai / India)

The Hill


This normative hill
like all others
is transparently accessible,
out there
and in the mind,
not to be missed
except in peril of one's life.

Do not muse on it
from a distance:
it's not remote
for the view only,
it's for the sport
of climbing.

What the hill demands
is a man
with forces flowering
as from the crevices
of rocks and rough surfaces
wild flowers
force themselves towards the sun
and burn
for a moment.

How often must I
say to myself
what I say to others:
trust your nerves—
in conversation or in bed
the rhythm comes.

And once you begin
hang on for life.
What is survival?
What is existence?
I am not talking about
poetry. I am
talking about
perishing
outrageously
and calling it
activity.
I say: be done with it.
I say:
you've got to love that hill.

Be wrathful, be impatient
that you are not
on the hill. Do not forgive
yourself or other,
though charity
is all very well.
Do not rest
in irony or acceptance.
Man should not laugh
when he is dying.
In decent death
you flow into another kind of time
which is the hill
you always thought you knew.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Edited: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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