All Our Yesterdays

Time’s arrow from the past is launched
With a force no bodkin may resist,
And we have found eternal youth
Elusive too, the alchemies
And fountains long discredited. 

Yet immortality we have devised
To preserve an endless, shining summer—
To preserve them all, intact and whole,
Not memories, but lived as new.

Martin Crowe has died today, 
In middle-age—the cancer stole
What hair he had, and youth,
Then life, last of all the lamps put out.
Yet he lives on, and who‘s to say
Whether he was ever sick, 
Or suffered, fought, and died?
For moments ago I beheld him tall,
And hale, and striding well—
Armed with ev’ry confidence of Youth
As he took the field ‘gainst England: 
The crack of leather on willow, then
A few great strokes—the crowd’s applause—
A bat upraised as much to salute
As to defy the ravages of time—
Victorious then as now. 
Tomorrow it may be so once more,
So again I ask: who is to say
Whether this was, or is,
Or is to come?

Thus the past encroaches upon 
The present—not a fatal moment
Once spent, irredeemable, but instead
An ever-returning investment—
Soon dwarfing our little all, and then—
For this is how we know a fact— 
Displaying itself anew, to prove
Its indisputable verity.

I saw it—I beheld it—I witnessed,
Observed, and perceived it as now.
The breaking news—the news withal— 
We see, and seeing know to be
The happenings of this very day.
So Martin Crowe is alive and well,
Unravaged by ills of time or fate
Or English bowlers, or the pitch at Lord’s, 
Or the intrusive present which insists—
Perhaps untruly?—‘he is dead.’

Donald Trump is in the news,
Today as every day. He jostles there
Alongside Crowe, alongside Gower, 
Whose cherubic hair is blonde in the sun
On the endless field of summer.
Outside, the snow is heavy, and
The air is chill, but with a few
Arcane movements, and words of command, 
The past lives again—it is the present.
If Trump is now, then why not Crowe?
The latter more deserving and by far
The better batsman of the two.
So Richie Benaud purrs again 
Into the microphone—although I am
Assured that he has also passed away
And is no more—but he defies it
Just as Crowe defies the foe at Lord’s.

These are all our yesterdays—or 
If not all, then at least the best:
The past that we would choose to live,
Rather than the one we had—
If any we have had at all. Not the past
Of grey and sullen skies—of cloudbursts, 
Disappointments, and menial tasks—
The constant drudgework of the tyrranical present—
But purified, cleansed, and made new,
Resurrected without the sins and stains
Of importunate reality. 

And is the truth so very worth our
Keeping each and ev’ry scrap?
Countless moments of vile tedium—
Soaping armpits, flossing teeth—
Blowing noses, bagging trash— 
Snoring, snorting, burping, boring
Every future visitor to this momentous place.
Let us have an endless summer,
Perpetual youth, and upon demand
The happiest realities beheld again— 
Then as now.

Perhaps there may be the faintest prick—
A tugging in our consciences
When we cast off what is for what will be,
And so doing lose the truth 
Of what we are.
But the explorers and the alchemists
Of ages past wit well the fact
That immortality demands a price
In flesh and essence both. 
And some were burned, and others hanged,
And others in reeking fens were drowned,
And others drained of blood, or flayed
Alive, or lost without a trace—
All gone, and failing, lost to us, except 
In myth much unlike fact—utterly unlike
The everyday—the now we have.

We happy people—so we shall be seen—
Have found the fountain’s running brook,
And drinking from it have attained 
The moment of transfiguration.
Here, past and present both collide,
Unite as one, and coalesce,
Inseparable and indistinguishable
One from the other. 
Nor would we wish to prise apart
That which our magicks now have joined
And redeemed of banal wholeness,
Of completeness and exactitude—
A meritless totality. 

For us, there are only summers—
Endless sunshine, eternal youth—
Health, peace, and happiness,
Free of ev’ry want and care.
We bear aloft, like wing’d Icarus, 
All our yesterdays, and if
We flying fall, ‘tis only so
We may be raised again as stars.

Shawn Cooper

Dr. Shawn Phillip Cooper is a scholar of mediæval literature, specialising in Arthuriana and the intersections between chivalry, kingship, and the Church. He is the Vice-President of the North American branch of the International Courtly Literature Society, and is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Rochester University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. His hobbies include playing the piano and watching Test Cricket.

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