On barren walls I saw the blind,
Unmoving shadow men, whose kind,
It's said, descends from timeless night.
My courage fell, but shamed of fright
And stubborn-souled, I strode ahead.
I listened as the shadows spread
Their song to me, in somber key
And melancholy harmony.
"Before you go, consider well
Your fortune, which the clock will tell."
I spied the clock and stopped to hear
Its rhythmic moan. My fortune, dear
To me, was hardly noticed by
The chant remorseless. "All men die,"
It said. But then the muted thrum
Played by the ancient pendulum
Reechoed down a frightful hole
Behind the clock, became the roll
Of distant thunder, said my name,
And murmured prophecy. "You'll claim
Life's great reward if you, weak child,
Can hold a purpose undefiled
By death." Derisive shadows streaked
Before my eyes. The blackest wreaked
Its scorn in cronelike poetry,
Full of warning, full of glee.
"Let your heart be well prepared,
For no horror will be spared."
Before me sat a gleaming urn,
And on its side I could discern
A dance of figures far away.
Then one flew near, to my dismay.
I stooping, curious to peer
More closely, soon beheld a blear
Old face and felt a chilling breath.
With frozen heart I stared at Death!
His eye-cast light was like a wave
Of ritual fire from a cave.
He said, "I'll meet you soon enough,
For you are made of mortal stuff."

January 1970 (revised)