When you appear—as we all shall, no doubt—before the oldest judge in the world,
Take care to notice his appearance; you’ll see his robe is frayed about the collar,
And that the cuffs—though expertly repaired— worn and threadbare,
For he has been upon the bench for what seems to be eons,
His case files scattered about heedlessly, his gavel mislaid.
And though you beseech him with your borrowed chants and learned pleadings,
It is unlikely that he shall do anymore than look up imperceptibly
And dismiss you with a short, disdainful wave of his hand,
For your case is no different from a thousand others,
And your entreaties and supplications no longer interest him.
I can understand, then, how you would find such thoughts sobering,
Indeed disconcerting—it is not necessarily pleasant to know
That we are as toy boats which,
Once pushed away from shore by a small boy soon distracted,
Drift aimlessly across a pond which offers neither shelter nor safe harbor.
We are, then, on our own, misbegotten creatures linked together
By no more than self-interest; oh, do not misunderstand me,
For I am not suggesting the violation of commandments—
Heaven forbid!—the spectre of patricide, the hair-trigger response
To heated blood engendered by the faithless lover.
I merely suggest it is wise to remember
That as we float along the stream of this life (it being chock-a-block
With garbage, broken bottles, the detritus of unconsecrated carnality),
No hand is on the tiller save our own.
But enough of this dark and dour philosophy!
Let us finish our draughts and return to our rooms, there to sleep
The sleep of the just, in this long winter’s night
Which seems without end.