Confutatis and cold comfort

On a recent morning bits from Mozart’s Requiem were playing in my head, and when I got to Confutatis I began to translate it in my head:

When the accused are convicted

To the acrid flames sentenced

Call me among the blessed.

I pray supplicant and prostrate,

Heart contrite as ash.

Show care for my end.

And I felt a strong desire to grant these prayers. My first impulse was to identify - not with the prayer, but the one to whom the prayers were directed. My first thought was not, how much like my own sentiments, but how terrible it is that someone might think I wouldn’t rescue them from the flames.

And then I remembered that I don’t have the power. I can’t just call everyone among the blessed. And I cried.

An acquaintance - not yet a friend, I think, though we have mutual friends - has been going through a very tough time, and meditating on their struggle, I wrote this poem, drawing again on my self from several months ago. So it’s not quite about them - as usual, I write the poem I’d have liked to read from someone else:

Cold comfort

Bathe me in your midnights,

Garland me in your lonelinesses,

And in that darkest hour where nothing moves,

The silence when all fire has been put out

And you have lost all motive force except

The will to turn and look where help might come

But never will, then you must sing to me.

Sing out to me from that. Sing spent, but sing.

Sing out the power of your pilot flame.

Sing out. Sing and go out and be alone.


And from your vulcan forge beneath the earth

Suture those gaping fissures in your soul,

Even the wound remembering my name.


Return to me my love

Whom I abandon wholly, loyal dog.

I call on you to do me one last service.

Climb up climb up climb up climb up climb up

Climb up climb up climb up climb up climb up

You sing the rest, you’ll have no help from me.

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