A Variation on a Theme from Goethe

These shapes of mine don’t waver, they amaze
me with their sudden onslaught as a storm
of images careens into my gaze,
one body changing to another, form
with form now merging as this riot preys
upon my memory, ‘til the weightless swarm
fades with the coming of the morning breeze
and I awake to find the sun’s a tease.

Where are those happy memories that alone
could tempt me to deny the present tense
and, soothing my cold heart with sadness, moan
in dark, lascivious tones, and trade good sense
for nothing than a promise to atone
by calling to remembrance in a dense,
deluding fog, the good I would have done
with all my empty days under the sun?

And yet, it’s true I’m tempted by the thought
of make believe, as though I had a song
or two from youth.  So, as I’ve come to naught
in my vain quest to rectify the wrong
I’ve done in leaving much undone, unsought
though all these shapes may be, to drift along
into a willy-nilly sadness might
just help me forget the winter light.

No – I’ll not trade my winter for a past
that’s figured forth by all the shapes that gad
about my mind, a hustle that is cast
in deep reflection as a kind of sad
yet radiant vision, though it holds us fast,
and gently as a mayfly drives us mad;
that door is locked – unwavering shapes come near
it’s true, but love, they ask a price too dear.

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