Zeroth Quartet

West Coker


The hour hand has reached its peak
Now all falls still behind these drapes
Except for breathing beneath sheets
Where fingers chilled enfold in knots
The flattened pillows fail to soothe
While I prepare my sleepless stare
Through moonlit dust in dusky air.

Outside the baying dogs have gone
No passing cars, no hammers pound
A stretch of fence posts in the ground
Which nocturnal deer exploit
To feast upon those ceasing blooms
You planted by the iron gates
Where nothingness may soon arrive
To claim the unfulfilling day
And steer it past all memory
As Charon ferried endless souls
Of dead across the River Styx
The taste of coin within my mouth
As sun bends west and birds wend south.


Inside a lush and younger dream
You reappear arrayed in white
Your wedding dress an elegance
I never saw before or since
As I recall how you would wince
Adjust my collar, tie, and smile
Smooth my hair back with warm hands
Pausing gently at the nape
Such wonders rushing eye to eye
The roses flourished by the stairs
The willows wallowing in sun
Baptismal fountains surging free
As records from another floor
Whispered music through our door
And perfume tinged the musky den
When we waltzed three-quarter time
In the moment all was prime.


I shall not sip from Lethe's flow
To forget before the end
Commence from you and every friend
Without the past to speak your names
To amble, having long explored,
In absence of remembrances

The time we laughed in April rain
The time we toured the long Great Wall,
Forbidden City, Paris, Bruges,
Unnumbered bridges we would cross
The time you dived upon a dare
Those hours we walked anywhere
The years of fearless travel plans
The buses, boats, and rusted vans
The moment you first saw me weep
The futures we could never keep.

At tea how we would reminisce
And close a moment with a kiss.


What time is it?  Where has it left?
Is the heat on?  Does it snow?
I'll wait for spring, and then I'll go.
Abide with me, draw up a chair
Come sing a song you once did sing
In stronger voice, in opera halls
Upon a stage with swelling strings.

What was it?  Faust?  Ophelia?
And was I Hamlet?  Lear perhaps?
Diminished king?  Prospero, then,
The tempest, wreck - my Ariel,
Your true name, yes?  Come work a spell,
Release us from this island plight
Restore us toward another night.

Am I as yet your sorcerer?
More Merlin trapped inside a tree
Enchanted for eternity.
And you, my Lady of the Lake,
Do not withdraw yourself again
But let me glimpse Excalibur.
Grant me chance to heave its helm
For we have one more war to wage
Between the pillars and the page
Where Arthur starts from Avalon
To clash with specters of the past
That we might grasp our Grails at last.

Zeroth Quartet © Copyright 2021, Robert J. Tiess.

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For LNP: Blanket per. on file.  I will need a reader.  Thank you.

Poem inspired to function as a possible prelude to Eliot's Four Quartets.

Submitted earlier to:

T. S. Eliot homage / inspiration challenge prompt - link:

Submitted: June 5, 2020