A Journal of the Arts
a response to Rudyard Kipling’s “If—”
What if I’ve forced my head up for much too long
With my neck now thin and no longer strong,
What if that trust I’ve built up deserts me too,
And it’s not just others that know what I can’t do,
What if I’ve waited and waited, every day of my life,
For a friend, a companion, a sensation of love,
Yet instead I’ve been beaten with hate and with strife,
Crying each night to be united with God above.
What if my dreams—become my escape from this pain;
What if my thoughts—fill my vacant heart with awe;
What if I’m unable to see straight, or begin to go insane,
And this mind of mine is actually my tragic flaw.
What if I’m not brave enough to fight a battle of words,
And turn into a fool before all my transgressors,
Or have witnessed my efforts constantly fed to the birds,
And have stooped from a social being to an aggressor.
What if I’ve run out of winnings to make into a pile
And used every memory to make me feel whole,
And can only weep at the lost times, can’t even smile,
And accept that there is nothing that I can control.
What if my conscience refuses to listen or to learn
Saying like “love yourself” and “it just takes time,”
And has the deep desire, the most terrifying yearn,
To spit at this Will, commit the final crime.
What if my virtue is lost on the ears of the crowd,
Nor my pure touch believed by their scornful pride.
What if thought allies and foes alike together bowed
To the leaders of this hate and were swept with the tide;
What if I can’t forgive these lies or fill this last minute
With happy times; I’m a victim staring into their gun.
The Earth is not mine, nor everything that is in it,
Therefore—I’m sorry, father—I can’t bear it. I’m done.
"But when shall I ever paint the Starry Sky, this painting that keeps haunting me."—Vincent Van Gogh
Light and darkness mesh with beauty
and chaos. It haunts yet traps its prey with it stars and reflections;
Keeps the eyes entranced to wonder
Whether Heaven and Earth have finally met
amid the restless Rhone.
The artist himself refused to paint anything
Until the twinkling lights escaped from his mind,
Not darkness, nor cold, nor wind a gale
Could prevent his quest to meet amends,
the lovers strolling in the forefront
A metaphor provided by chance as he captures
the essence of his first love, her light just right.