ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"The Urn", by E. M. Schorb


Containing the Night Thoughts of a Sexagenarian

It is this heavenly tale, that the child in one could wish for, that
keeps me awake tonight, on the eve of my sixtieth year,
fearing death and wishing for grace, not knowing what
either is, or even if either is, though the unbreathing
stillness of bodies has me fairly convinced of the
former, and of the latter I have seen so little as to
doubt what I have seen as aberrant, some twist in the
air and light that, so full of desire for the magic of
exemption, I have deluded myself, half knowing
I lied, half believing my own white lie.  But by
sixty I’ve come to believe that the only grace
is the goodness of the rational mind, and the
only evil the old instinctive animal brain, the
knob of the cerebellum, seeking its own satis-
factions of food and sex and selfhood, the
ultimate isolate one, that yet does not
understand that we are together is this
flowing, amazing hologram, with
or without a creator that may or
may not care, that, come alive, we
have every right to judge the nature
of existence, for, however arrived
at, our brains are analytic, not made
to hunker down in obeisance to
riddling gods, nor to any phantom
that hides in a cloud of unknowing.
For we have one another and have
courage and the hope of courage
and the practice of courage,
to help us, and, when the
wind is calm, and
the waters lean down
for the moon, we have
lonely senses to share till
at last our time has run out. Now,
as I think in the night, somewhat afraid
of the day that will see me another year older and
that much closer to death, I mark the speed of time
that has seen me, a moment ago, a child walking home from school, or a man going off to
harm’s way, or this or that or the other, and think of these things that we have, of others
 and courage and love, of human intelligence used as it plainly was meant to be used, and I
 think that I’ll sleep and awaken less anxious than I was considering a heavenly tale, for in
 the realist reality, the closest thing to the truth, there is finally a peace of mind that is a
 grace in a sweet surrender.  It is the heavenly tale that the child in one should wish for.  It
 will allow me to sleep in the night of my sixtieth year.


“The Urn” is included in Once Upon Each Time, Schorb’s collected poems, with an introduction by Ricardo Nirenberg, published in August 2020.  Other works included are reprinted from such literary magazines as The Hudson Review, The American Scholar, The Yale Review, The Southern Review, Oxford Poetry (England), Sand (Germany), Poetry Nippon (Japan), Queen’s Quarterly (Canada), World of English (China), Frank (France), Kavya Bharati (India), and other journals from around the world.

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