Babbage, Troubled by Vision at His Wife's Grave, 1827

Neil Aitken


The horizon always doubles when you look up.
The rim of day-moon clouds for a moment,

anything distant splits into two:  a chimney, a belfry
in the district over, the dark plume of a far off train,

the tall masts of ships at sea.  Even the dull birds circling here,
repeat images, one above another.  So too, the men and women

gathered round you in black finery, the sable horses shuffling,
the silver-trimmed hearse, the gleaming ropes lowering

the coffin descending now into the earth. An almost
imperceptible sway of things.  The brass plate upon it

bearing her name in relief—it too unfolding even as it fades
in the imperfect light.  Your outstretched hand rippling

above the dark hole.  The air full of memory, each atom
refusing silence, some vast library of breathing.

The words of the departed mingling with you, the one left behind,
grieving, who now raises a numb hand to an eye, joins thumb

and fingers to make a small opening from which you peer out,
in vain at a world collapsing into singularity and nothingness.