Bionote: For the theme of "graduation," I drew on personal experience of school graduations for the first two poems. For the final poem, "The Masques of the Angels of Light," I drew on my sense of a cross-cultural spiritual tradition of the soul's arrival at a new stage.
They chose me to give the speech,
not the sort of invitation you can decline.
Then they asked to see a draft
and pronounced it pessimistic.
So I revised
(feels like I've been having this conversation
all my life),
and they declined to look again,
saying whatever I chose to say
would be all right.
But would it?
A third of the way through my wordy tome,
the massed ranks of my six hundred classmates
stared back at me cross-eyed -- some old gag
I fell for, skipping ham-handedly
to the last two pages, and
wrapping up with clarion endorsements
of Resolution and Individuality.
Nobody complained that I'd talked too short.
A girl I didn't know thanked me for 'trying
to say something real,'
not the usual graduation starting-out-on-life's-great-adventure
sort of stuff,
And I would have told her
that I'd stuck to my guns,
resisted pressures from the top
and stared down a crowd of frivolous peers
to make my solitary desert call,
except it wasn't true.
The first one got me through high school.
I was still water, never fluent.
She was a year behind, but ahead of me
in a world of people, not books. Isn't that what mattered?
I stepped up, to college.
She was there for that one too, blue gowns, ivy walls.
We hung on by ringed fingers, shoelaces,
but the next steps led to separate paths.
I stumbled down the stairway up,
alone, vertiginous, my new companions too young to guide,
though each had something true to teach.
You never graduate alone.
A post 'graduation' -- who goes to that?
The wife who pushed me up the ladder,
a daughter turning maybe three,
when daddy's new initials came by mail.
We celebrated, going out for ice cream.
Summiting, I graduate no more.
I have the women to take me
the rest of the way.
The Masques of the Angels of Light
The masques of the angels of light filled them
with the beautiful sadness of knowing
all they would never see or experience again
and yet proved real, authentic, and permanent beyond doubt
because now they were seeing it, they were experiencing it.
And they feared to pinch themselves,
or permit doubt of any sort,
or even to share a glance with a fellow soul
for fear that the spell would somehow be broken
in the humble land of doubt and ridicule,
which they knew their former realm to be.
They saw light. The angels of light. Wonderful creatures,
or the illusion of creatures.
Impossible to tell what was real --
and what if nothing ever ever really was? --
confronted by a silvery, silken, vessel-tall, weeping-willow human-like form
that transfixed the eye, enchanted the senses
and offered to the mind a lulled, inward,
floating sensation of peaceful, cradled fluency.
Thought flowed, but rocked softly within the boundaries
of some sustaining state of being there,
more of mind than of body: more of heart than of mind.
All who saw them were elevated in spirit.
And all who were there saw them.
The forms displayed their powers, and their enchantments,
in a series of linked movements like trees holding hands.
Their robes, ethereal and light as air, at times translucent,
as if nature's sun, an inspired light, were beaming through a wash line hung
with the freshly bathed linens of new arrivals,
that glimmered and changed shades and textures and patterns.
And washes of color, fresh as the color of the colors, and the light of lights,
flowed before the eye of the newly roused.
All saw. But no one saw all that their neighbor did.
© 2018 Robert Knox
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