Poem: The Last Days of John Keats

john-keats

I used to breathe so much

Easier before I fell in love;

Now my chest is a tourniquet,

Constricting around me, fighting

For every breath – so every inspiration

And expiration, is my Atlantean load to

Bear

 

II.

Ah, Keats, how I have lived and

Died alongside you! Sailing abroad,

In grief, knowing, your love, you would

Ne’er again meet – near choking on the

Blood of your own ruptured lungs – reading

Of it, I, too, could feel your blood, swelling

In my throat – and, all gone! – Never to

Write another poem – a cancelled stanza – no

Swansong – no parting cadenza – fits and starts

Charmed from a calm, lucid, mind; volcanizing

Passions to nerves unkind – Brother John –

I love you! Your veins are the veins that pump

This bloody man into the future – you feared

For your posterity – but your heart is found

Immortal in me. Those last days in Italy; your

Tubercular madness – catastrophic sadness –

Blood phlebotomized from a body, already

Bleeding – but on the milk of

Eternal life, you would soon be

Feeding

 

III.

You begged Severn to kill

You – to give you a bottle of

Laudanum, so your suffering –

Your irreversible suffering –

Would not be prolonged; but

As a friend, and Christian, he

Refused to allow you this deed

To do – so, from suicide – the luxury

Of the impatient – you were denied –

But why keep alive a posthumous man,

Who has already prophesied the end of

His span?

 

IV.

But, you were made of better

Stuff, John; you strode calmly into

That blistering light of pain, so that

Future generations and artists, would

Have your bravery to inspire us – and

You have inspired me, John – like

You, I can already feel the daisies

Growing upon me – and I write out

My heart’s transcript in poetry – striving

To mine from this vessel’s adamantine

Core – that imperishable truth hid in

Mercurial ore – so that future generations,

And the ones of my own, might read the

Hieroglyphs inscribed on my bones; that

Call out “For Love! Everybody to redeem!

A helping hand! A friend in need!”

 

V.

And John, I do want to be as

Great as you; as immortal as

You – but can I at least live a little

Longer than you? – Be a little luckier

In love than you? I know you had your

Fanny Brawne – with jealous rage, so oft,

She left you adorned – but was it not only

When your death warrant was written, that

Your vomited blood repainted this flirt as

Love-sick and smitten? Always writing you

A note to keep under your head, as you snuggled,

Moribund, in your sick patient bed – oh, isn’t it

Easier to commit, when you know, punctual death,

Has imposed a time limit, to the extent

Of our affection, to those that live, who

Would be happy to milk all the love we

E’er can give?

 

VI.

And, in my most morbid moments,

I ask myself – would I be willing to

Forsake my health, if just a few moments

With you were granted; to finally utter the words

With which I’ve so long been enchanted? To tell

You ‘I love you,’ and hear you say the same; though

My body were in death throes, I would feel

No pain – to be loved by you, would I sacrifice

Aught else – my blood, my heartbeat, my breath,

My health? Were it not unkind to have you

Watch me die – so from this feeble sparrow,

An eagle could fly . . .

 

VII.

But, if you will love me,

You must love me on your

Own, whilst there is breath in

My lungs, and flesh on my

Bones

 VIII.

So, I love you, my brother –

My brother, John Keats –

And one day, in heaven, our

Two souls will meet – and we

Will both know, at last, how

Our hearts to utter, without,

Inexorably, having

To Suffer

 

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